publishing industry

Anyone who reads primarily white male authors is contributing, quite directly, to the economic inequalities that pervade our culture…. Many book buyers believe, as I do, that the market itself is racist and sexist in all sorts of unseen ways. Choosing to buy and read books by women and people of color is one small way to address this.

5 Ways to Follow the Publishing Industry

For the month of March, my goal is to get better at keeping up with the publishing industry. Why? Well, first of all because if I want to be published I feel like I shouldn’t be stumbling blindly into a industry with out-of-date information and no pulse on what’s happening. Secondly, because Random House and Penguin had a huge merger 2013 and I didn’t find out until a few weeks ago. So… clearly I need to pay more attention.

I’ve compiled a list of five resources that I already am using (or need to start using) to follow publishing news. I’m going to try to get in the habit of checking these out twice a week.

(links and tips over here)

It's not THAT hard to get published... right? WRONG.
Hey! I have a question… Everyone tells me that it’s insanely hard to get a book published, something like 0.01% chance. But then someone else told me that it’s not THAT hard if you write well and have a good story to tell, since most of what is sent to agents and publishers is utter crap. Is this true?
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Anonymous

It’s not THAT hard to become an astronaut. All you have to do is be good at math and physics and have better physical stamina than most of NASA’s other applicants.

It’s not THAT hard to become President of the United States, either. All you have to do is have a (relatively) spotless record of public service and access to the millions of dollars in funding required to run a successful campaign against someone who’s just as good at politics as you are.

It’s also not THAT hard to become a neurosurgeon. All you have to do is go to a top medical school, be top of your class, and memorize the neurological pathways of the delicate and complex human brain backwards and forwards.

For that matter, it’s not THAT hard to become a world-famous actor. All you have to do is be conventionally attractive and good at faking emotions in front of a camera. 

In case I haven’t made my point clear yet, let me spell it out for you: when you put it that way, yeah, it’s really fairly simple to get published… in theory. In practice it’s pretty damn hard. 

One of my authors recently gave birth to healthy twins without anesthesia. She says getting her first book published was harder.

Writing a book is, either fortunately or unfortunately, one of the most common endeavors known to humankind. Everyone and their grandmother is writing a book. Your weird uncle Malachi is writing a book. So’s your bank teller and Mrs. Thompson next door. Some of them will even finish. Some of them are even good writers with good stories to tell, to use your criteria. And all of them are trying to get published. So it’s a game of numbers. This is not a big-fish-in-a-small-pond scenario. It’s a big-fish-in-a-galaxy-of-oceans-filled-with-other-equally-large-fish situation. 

The people who send me utter crap are an amusing and/or frustrating waste of time. But I spend far more time deliberating between pretty good writing. The amount of pretty good writing I receive is at least equal to the amount of utter literary vomit I receive. Of the good stuff, I need to weed out what isn’t right for my publishing house and list (ie. the people with good work who didn’t bother to research who they should’ve sent their query to), and then from there pare it down to what is absolutely blowing my mind all over my office walls at that very moment.

So your book may be very well written, and it might even be a good story in the telling. But as I hear it, NASA’s a pretty exclusive program, they won’t let just anyone do brain surgery, and I’ve seen some pretty fabulous performances off Broadway.

Do your homework. Be awesome. Practice your writing craft and research agents and editors. Don’t take your success for granted based on your innate talents and the value of the story you have to tell.

Standing out above the crap is only half the battle. Be prepared to compete with writers who are just as talented and on top of their game as you are. Do not expect an easy time just because you’re good. Being good isn’t good enough. You have to be better.

~QQ

P.S. Writing is hard.

Here’s a list of publishing industry terms that insiders use to describe various styles of creative writing. Soon you’ll be talking about books, short stories, essays, and poems in the same way that sommeliers speak about fine wines!

While not everyone uses this jargon, and some of the lingo has multiple meanings, these words and phrases can help you describe the characteristics of a manuscript or book. If you’ve heard these words in a different context—or if you can add your own words to this list of descriptions—please leave a note in our comments section.

It frustrates me that publishers are treating e-books like print-books.

It frustrates me that you don’t actually buy the e-book, but instead the license to own one.

It frustrates me that they expect people to buy e-books at ridiculous prices even though people can’t lend most of them, can’t return the book if you don’t like it, or sell it, or donate it.

It frustrates me how technophobic the industry is and how far behind with times.

It frustrates me that I actually have to wait to borrow an e-book at the library if someone already has it checked out. There shouldn’t be a limit, it’s an electronic file for god’s sake!

It frustrates me that only the most popular books are readily available to be borrowed as e-books, amongst otherwise pitiful collections.

It frustrates me that they don’t trust their readers.

It frustrates me that they pit authors against their readers.

It frustrates me that a lot of authors are against e-books because they see as a threat to print.

It frustrates me that many readers with no means are forced to rely on piracy because they cannot afford to read their favorite authors otherwise.

It frustrates me that people think that piracy is the answer, instead of an overhaul of the system.

Playing Bisexual Book Detective

So here at bisexual-books, we frequently talk about playing “bisexual book detective.”  What does that mean?  It means the strange and frustrationg process by which we attempt to find fiction books with bisexual characters, content, or themes.  Since so few books actually use the b-word when describing their bisexual protagonists, we end up reading the jacket copy for clues as we try to guess whether this “transgressive cutting-edge exploration of the ambiguity of love and sexual identity” is really just about a bi character.

 In many ways it’s like searching for old lesbian pulp novels. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the L-word was rarely used so readers had to look for certain key-words and euphemisms. “Twilight girls” was a good one. “Strange” or “Odd” women. “Shadow worlds.” If you saw a cover advertising the “Shadow world of twilight love and strange women,” you knew you had yourself a lesbian pulp! You can see some good examples here or on the wallpaper of fuckyeahlesbianliterature.

So just like old post-WWII lesbian pulps, modern novels with bisexual characters rarely just come out and use the dreaded b-word on the cover (or as we frequently notice, use the word anywhere at all). So as a public service, here are a few of the phrases we look for when we play bisexual book detective:

  • “ambiguity”
  • “curiosity”
  • “confused sexuality”
  • “fluid sexuality”
  • really if it says anything int he first sentence about a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife and then a “surprising attraction” to someone later in the jacket description 
  • “cutting edge”
  •  “sexually transgressive”
  • “a novel of desire”
  • an “impossible choice” between two people who are conspicuously not gendered in their description
  • “sexual adventure”

There are two things we want to note about this list: 
First, notice how many of these things are variations on bisexual stereotypes.

Second, notice how they make our orientation all about SEX.  It is dehumanizing.  Bisexuality is not an identity, but a sex act. 

It makes us wince and rub our temples. 

- Ellie and Sarah 

When you look at the publishing industry: Where are all the black editors? And what’s the next generation of Black editorial talent that not only has the editorial skills but the broad cultural sensitivity to champion books by diverse authors. So that we don’t get the variation on the same story, be it from a White writer or from a Black writer. How’s that pipeline going? ‘Cause that’s what we don’t talk about, that executive pipeline.” –Rob Fields

6 Common Mistakes That Can Cost Writers A Literary Agency Contract

You’re fishing for a literary agent, casting query after query out into the world, and hoping for a nibble. And then—yes! An agent is interested, curious, inquiring. You want to reel the agent in, but you must move carefully—if you pull the line too slowly or too quickly, your prize catch will instead be the “one that got away.”

There's no such thing as a bisexual picture book..... so Happy Picture Book Month?

When we first started this blog, Sarah sat down with her former roommate (a children’s librarian) and set out looking for bisexual picture books.   We figured there must be some somewhere.   After all it had been like 20some years since Heather Has Two Mommies and there are tons of gay, lesbian, and transgender picture books now.  There must be somewhere, from some small press or dedicated but obscure author, bisexual children’s picture books.

*crickets chirp*

We have been at this blog for almost 20 months and we have not found a single bisexual picture book.  No picture books about bisexuality, no picture books explaining bisexuality, no picture books with bisexual characters.  No quirky thing from the 70’s or the 90’s with terribly dated pictures.  No cutting edge kickstarted thing the just came up now.  

None, zip, zero.   

We’ve talked about this more with former roommate and with other children’s literature professionals, and we’ve narrowed it down to two possible reasons:

1) The word bisexual has the words ‘sex’ and 'sexual’ in it  This is terrifying to parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and publishers.  

2) Picture books are very much focused on helping children understand a situation in the here and now.  When queer children’s picture books do exist, they are often about helping children understand a friend or relative who is in a same-sex relationship, transitioning, or doing the things queer people do that straight people also do - like get married and have babies.  A few are fantasy stories about princes and princesses that fly in the face of conventional gender expectations.  

This means that it’s not immediately easy to use a picture book to explain bisexuality.  If Mommy has a girlfriend now that will be the focus of the book, not her identity label or her former boyfriend.   

But while those two reasons may explain a lot, it’s still not good enough.

This is Picture Book Month and Carolyn Dee Flores recently had this to say about the power of picture books:

Picture books ignite our souls.

I didn’t own every one of the books I read when I was little, but I FELT like I did. When I was really young, and read a book, and saw the pictures, and felt the pages, I remember thinking, “Wow, someone thought enough of me to do this, to make THIS for ME.” It made me feel important. Worthy. Like I had a future.

Think about all the kids out there that will one day grow up to be bisexual.  Or all the kids out there who have bisexual parents and relatives.  Plus all the bisexual adults out there who would LOVE to give a bisexual picture book to a child in their life….

Picture book authors, publishers, and illustrators are dynamic, creative, and passionate people.   To them, we’re issuing the following challenge:

Find a way to make bisexual picture books.

Soon.  Now, if you could.  Because it is long past due. 

- Sarah, Ellie, and Evan

Things you should ask yourself before sending that query letter out to a publishing house
  1. Does anyone give a shit? No really: does anyone in the world besides you, your mom, and Count Fluffula the Maine Coon give a single shit about the book you just finished writing? If you can’t imagine anyone else caring about your book, then maybe it doesn’t need to be published. If you can’t imagine anyone else being moved by it, learning something from it, or enjoying the reading of it in some way, then neither will an editor.
  2. Was I the right person to write this book? Or would this story have been much better in the hands of someone who actually knew what the fuck they were talking about? If you don’t have the knowledge, life experience, imagination, or resources to write about something, then maybe you’d best leave it to someone who does.
  3. Am I saying something that hasn’t been said a million times before? There are hardly any original ideas left in the world, but it’s true that some ideas are more original than others. If the “touching-yet-slightly-humorous memoirs of middle-aged, semi-successful white people” section occupies an entire wing of your local bookstore, then maybe you don’t need to publish yet another one. Similarly, if you’ve ever described your book as “just like Twilight, but with demons who glow and Native Canadian werecaribou!” you should probably just stop.
  4. Do I know what the fuck I’m doing? By which I mean: Did you do your research? Did you take the time to proofread your manuscript? Is your manuscript written in coherent English/whatever language you supposedly speak? Do you have a plan for approaching editors and agents? Did you workshop your story and revise it accordingly? Is this the first long-form prose you’ve ever written? Depending on your answers to the above, then you need to sit yourself down because you’ve got a lot to learn about publishing.
  5. Did I listen to honest feedback on my manuscript? And I mean REALLY listen, and TRULY honest, not the enthusiastic and semi-coherent praise of Aunt Betty after she’s three martinis into a very pleasant recollection of how you look just like your Uncle Freddy during the war and did you know he was a writer too? If your writing workshop friends all say your story sucks, and you decided to go ahead and query publishers anyway because clearly those guys weren’t being serious / don’t know what they’re talking about / can’t recognize genius when it’s staring them in the face / aren’t real writers anyway, then I have no sympathy for you and the deep, dark depression you will enter at your first completely unsurprising rejection letter.
  6. Can I handle rejection? No seriously: Can you handle putting your heart through a meat grinder with fresh duck feces and then hanging it out to dry on a laundry line made of barbed wire and spite? If the answer is no, then maybe you’d best avoid the publishing industry entirely.
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Q&A with Literary Agent Carly Watters of the P.S. Literary Agency
Carly Watters began her publishing career in London at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency. She has a BA in English Literature from Queen’s University and a MA in Publishing Stud…

How does one go about finding an agent?

Start with Google, but make sure you fact check on an agent’s website. Try ManuscriptWishList.com, QueryTracker.com or PW.org. Look in the acknowledgement pages of books that are similar to yours in theme, genre or tone—the agent is often listed. A lot of us are on Twitter too, so check us out. We also do a lot of workshops with Writer’s Digest where we offer critiques, which can be a wonderful use of time and resources.

How many queries do you get in a typical month?

At our agency they all go to one place. The agency itself gets 2000 a month. I get about 200-300 personally addressed to me. I used to read all the queries that came in! And that became too much of an undertaking so now I focus on writers that specifically want to work with me.

What makes a query stand out to you?                          

Concise, unique premise, complex hook, external plot, great motivation (I love family secrets), and a strong character that’s active in their life.

Is there a format that you prefer?

  • Paragraph One – Introduction: Include the title and category of your work (i.e. fiction or nonfiction and topic), an estimated word count and a brief, general introduction.
  • Paragraph Two – Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy.
  • Paragraph Three – Writer’s bio: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background (awards and affiliations, etc.).

How many query letters do you recommend a writer have out at any one time?

I suggest writers to send out as many as they think they can manage and all at one time to their top tier choices. 10-20 is manageable in my opinion. I think you should query one book for at least 6 months. I don’t think you should be pitching 2 books at once.

Read the full Q&A on Women Writers, Women(s) Books.

Get Ready! 5 Steps To Take Now—Before The Autumn Publishing Rush

Although most people in the publishing industry are working hard and reading submissions year-round, September and October tend to generate a special kind of enthusiasm and excitement. And while summertime submissions have certain advantages, autumn has a unique “get back to business” kind of energy. Literary journals associated with colleges and universities open their doors to new submissions when the fall semester begins. Those agents returning from vacation are focused on finding the next big thing.

Bisexual Book Awards receives record number of books

The Bi Writers Association (BWA) announced today the submissions for its Third Annual Bisexual Book Awards. There are a total of 70 books in 10 categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Speculative Fiction [Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror], YA Fiction [Teen/Young Adult], Biography/Memoir, Erotic Fiction/Erotica, Romance, Anthology, Poetry & Mystery. There are also two special awards: Bi Book Publisher of the Year and Bi Writer of the Year.

 A record number of 70 bi-themed books were submitted–more than to any book awards in any year–including this one (which beat its own record of 60 books last year.) They also have more categories than ever before, with three new book categories: Romance, Anthology & Mystery. “Offering more categories encourages more submissions, more writing and more publishing,” says Sheela Lambert, the Bi Writers Association’s director.

See the full list of nominees here.

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RITA, Diversity, and the Nazi Romance.

If you haven’t heard already, a romance novel about a Jewish woman falling in love with Nazi commandant (in charge of a concentration camp) during WWII was nominated for two RITA awards this year. That’s right, the Romance Writers of America awards nominated a Nazi Romance for two awards IN 2015.

I’m not going to name the book, other than to call it the Nazi Romance, because I don’t want to give it any more attention than it’s already getting for its RITA nomination. So those devil advocates intent on knowing the “other side” of the story (because Nazi’s deserve a fair shake I guess?) will have to do the leg work themselves.

The Nazi Romance was a nominee in the “Inspirational Romance” category, which is primarily Christian romance, and the First Book category. The system for nominating is a bit complicated, but I will attempt to explain it in a concise manner.

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Literary Journals Featuring Writers Of Color + Lit Mag Diversity Spotlight Contest

As part of our commitment to providing writers (and readers!) with the very best selection of publications, we’ve compiled this selection of exemplary journals that promote authors of color from all walks of life.

This list of diversity-oriented literary journals comes from our extensive database of markets for creative writers. At Writer’s Relief, we maintain a constantly updated database to identify the publications best-suited to our clients’ particular writing styles and content. This is just a sampling of the journals that feature writers of color (and are accepting submissions!); the list is not complete.

CONTEST: By NOVEMBER 30, enter our Lit Mag Diversity Spotlight Contest to receive great prizes donated by several of these literary journals. Choose one of the following options to enter:

  1. Subscribe to TWO print journals listed below (that you don’t already subscribe to); or
  2. Sign up for the mailing list or donate to TWO of the online journals below; or
  3. Choose one action from option #1 and one from option #2.

Then comment on our blog post and tell us how you chose to enter! For the full guidelines, additional ways to enter, and details about the prizes, visit the Lit Mag Diversity Spotlight Contest page.