Recent Fairy-tale Projects

Since I last posted, I completed my master’s degree in English, moved house, worked on dozens of projects, and got a dog and six chickens. But today I’d like to highlight three recent-ish projects that are on the same topic: fairy tales.

Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales and Television, edited by Pauline Greenhill & Jill Terry Rudy

The first project, Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television, is a collection of scholarly essays edited by Pauline Greenhill and Jill Rudy and published by Wayne State University Press. I indexed the volume, and it was a pleasure to read (not to mention the fact that it fed into research for my master’s thesis). The topics contained in the book are broad, and the various authors bring unique concerns, interests, and perspectives to the discussion about fairy tales on television. And look at that cover! Isn’t it nice to find an academic press that takes a little pride in the designs as well as the content?

The book spawned another project I worked on: Fairy Tales on Television. I was one of many research assistants and contributors who made the searchable database and functional data visualizations possible. The database is a research tool for researchers and creators whose interests intersect with fairy tales and television. I’ve used it for research of my own, and I might be preparing an infographic summarizing my findings. (So stay tuned for that.)

PersinetteOutside of academia, I also had the opportunity to work with Laura Christensen, a French-to-English translator who translated “Persinette,” a literary French fairy tale similar to “Rapunzel.” Laura translated the tale, wrote a delightful introduction, provided some biographical information on the author, and included introductions to and public-domain translations of the Grimms’ “Rapunzel” (which was published after “Persinette”) and Giambatista Basile’s “Petrosinella” (an Italian tale published before “Persinette”). I copyedited the text (except the public-domain translations) and formatted everything for its upcoming ebook release. Laura lets you know where you can find her collection on her translation website.

Weekly Roundup: 1/27–2/3

I only have these two links for you this week, but they’re really good.

Kristin Nelson: The Rapidly Evolving Role of Agent

Literary agents are adapting to the changing landscape of publishing, and though some do it by introducing a conflict of interest (by becoming digital publishers), the Nelson Literary Agency has designed a platform that allows them to help their clients take advantage of electronic markets and avoid taking on the publisher role. Check it out. If you get confused on some of the finer points (Kristin is mainly giving an overview), look at Courtney Milan’s opinion on the subject (Milan is one of Kristin’s clients). She goes into some examples of how, in the NLA model, the agents act as liaisons, not as license holders.

Jane Friedman: 5 Attitudes Toward Publishing You Should Avoid

Friedman looks at five attitudes she hears people tout and that make her worry about them. She asks you to really think about the things you say and make sure you know what you want.

Weekly Roundup: 9/17–9/23

Seanan McGuire: Across the digital divide.

Author Seanan McGuire wrote a post that takes a different look at the e-revolution in publishing than I’ve heard before: she looks at how it makes reading an exclusionary luxury. I’ve thought about this sort of thing before myself. (Probably because ever since I moved out of my parents’ home I’ve been a few steps behind every technological advance—except in the case of required professional software like Adobe Creative Suite products and Word.)

In response to the argument that even those who don’t have an e-reader have a computer (something I have heard), I know people who can’t afford to have a home computer either. Those people would have to rely on places with free computers, like libraries, but library computers aren’t the sort you can sit at for hours and hours because they’re in high demand (not to mention the decrease in library funding). The issue of making electronic reading as democratic as print reading is one that hasn’t been satisfactorily addressed for me. The ease of moving a print book from one owner to another is one reason I’ve been happy to keep buying print books even though I have an e-reader.

Thomas Baekdal: Infinite Choices and a World Abundance vs. Supply and Demand.

Thomas Baekdal explains why supply-and-demand rules do not apply to the abundance of ebooks. This is a follow-up to his article called “The Myth of the 99 Cent Book.” In both articles he emphasizes why 99 cents is not a sustainable price for books to trend toward and why it’s a bad way to go. He suggests that you stop focusing on making your book cheap enough that people won’t fight about having to give you money; instead, make your content into someone of sufficient quality that people will be clambering to give you a fair price.

Baekdal’s reasoning is why I’m so happy with publishers and authors who are dedicated to making their ebooks into quality products instead of subsidiary aftereffects (Pyr, for example). When you put out a quality story and you present it in a quality way, with attention to detail and quality, you can maintain a sustainable price point and readers will pay it willingly because they know it’s worth the money.

Writers Beware: PUBSLUSH Press

There have been a lot of crowdfunding projects cropping up across the internet, and one of the newest is PUBSLUSH Press (they’re technically still in beta). Writers Beware posted a critique of PS’s publishing agreement and noted some things to be aware of. These crowdfunding organizations are another option and venue for writers, but it’s best to go into anything—from traditional publishing to doing everything yourself—with your eyes wide open to the opportunities, risks, and sticky bits. PUBSLUSH has quite a few sticky bits.

The Rook by Daniel O'MalleyDaniel O’Malley: Chapters 1 & 2 of The Rook

The Rook is a book that piqued my interest at some point in the past, though I’m not quite sure when or where. (I may have heard about it through Publishers Weekly, but I’m not sure because I don’t record where I find things when I put them on my “to watch” list.) There is a two-chapter teaser for the fantasy novel available now. Yes, I’ve read the teaser. After I read it I was tempted to pre-order the novel (which doesn’t come out until January 2012). I haven’t because my birthday and Christmas happen between now and its release, and I tend to get wonderful gift cards to bookish places on one (or both) of those occasions. That and I still haven’t finished the stack of books next to my desk and I’ve cut off my book spending until it’s been devoured. And The Hum and the Shiver comes out next week, and that’s another book I’ve been watching.

Weekly Roundup: 9/3–9/9

Cory Doctorow: “Why Should Anyone Care?”

Cory Doctorow shares his thoughts about working at a bookstore and how that opened his eyes to how the book-producing industry chugs through the years. He also provides some practical thoughts on self-publishing based on his own experience. My favorite quote: “I knew I’d have to do some of the stuff my publisher had done, but like everyone doing something complicated for the first time, I dramatically underestimated how much work this would be. ”

Stacy Whitman: “Some Thoughts on Middle Grade Voice”

The editorial director of Tu Books shares her thoughts on voice in general and the middle grade voice in particular (I thought this article would follow up last week’s Wordplay podcast quite well). She focuses on how hard humor is, and why it’s really bad if your writing displays the difficulty of your undertaking.

Nathan Bransford: “Publishers Are Squandering Their Cachet On Imprints”

Nathan Bransford presents a post about how publishers lend credibility to authors associated with their brand name—and why that credibility may be squandered on lesser-known imprints and specialty groups. (I’d like to comment more on this, but I recognize more imprints than most people should, so I can’t really say which imprints are actually adding brand-name power to a book.)

Wordplay Podcast Episode 2: “Character, Plot, & Protagonists”

This week the Wordplay team has Ally Condie, the author of Matched, as a guest on episode 2.They talk about the difference between character-driven and plot-driven fiction, and why you need a balance between the two. They also harangue the idea of a paper cutout villain who doesn’t have believable motives or a certain degree of emotional complexity.

Writing Excuses 6.14: “Suspension of Disbelief”

The Writing Excuses crew has Patrick Rothfuss joining them for a podcast about suspending your reader’s disbelief. Some highlights: don’t make everything too tidy, don’t betray human nature, lay your groundwork, and make use of the slow build to absurdity. Rothfuss also highlights the concept of bathos, which boils down to undercutting serious or weighty things with commonplace events or thoughts.

Jon Schindehette: “Is Illustration a Viable and Productive Art Form?”

Illustration is the art of books, from two-page illustrated spreads to covers. In this post Jon Schindehette (creative director at Wizards of the Coast) briefly looks at illustration as an art form from an artist’s standpoint. He also addresses the viewpoint of an art director or editor. “[Art directors and editors] are responsible for ensure [sic] the artist that is chosen is appropriate for the task at hand, but they are also responsible for communicating the ‘needs of the text’ so that you [the illustrator] understand what success will look like.” If you’re an author looking into being your own publisher, you should also start thinking about what it takes to be your own art director as well.

Kristin Nelson: “In The Author’s Shoes”

Agent Kristin Nelson shares a conversation she had with an author who has recently changed agents. The author pointed out three things every author should be sure of before signing with an agent. Kristin adds her thoughts on each point. These points serve as a reminder that the author–agent relationship should be a partnership, and you should approach it as such. If you can’t ensure they’ll be a good business partner, you shouldn’t be signing with them.

ePublishing and Your Writing Career

Renovation WorldCon 2011 LogoYesterday was Day 1 of WorldCon, and I’ve been roaming around as my writer friends’ freelance editor buddy. The day was fairly uneventful, but there were two major highlights for me: chatting with Moshe Feder from Tor and hearing from Jacob Weisman of Tachyon Publications. Some of what we talked about is particularly relevant to aspiring (and, honestly, established) authors.

While we were talking with Moshe (some friends of mine waylaid him, and he’s nice enough to chat with us), he mostly told stories about his career and let us know we are free to submit to him (I obviously won’t be taking advantage of that), but one tidbit you may be interested in is what he said about the touted ebook revolution, the future publishing structure, and the place of editors.

Editors in ePublishing

Moshe said that no matter how publishing convolutes, writhes, and reinvents itself, authors will always need an objective editorial eye to help them reach their full potential. While current publishing has a lot of rough patches (high overhead, etc.), it serves a purpose: it helps authors improve their work, grow their talent, and reach an audience. The need for those things will never go away. (So Moshe firmly believes that his line of work will not become obsolete, even if the printed word completely dies out.)

However, something that is changing, in Moshe’s mind, is how writers are reaching readers. As physical bookstores are fading from ubiquitousness, it will be harder to reach casual readers (you know, the readers that take a book outside the “die hard” readers and send it blossoming into widespread readership). In the past (and still now, to a certain degree), casual readers would pass book showcases (i.e. bookstores) in the mall or near their other regular errands. Then cover design and marketing could take over to let a casual reader know that he or she really did want to read a certain book. Now, Moshe says, no one in the industry is quite sure how to let casual readers know about awesome books. (This is also, he said with glee, marketing’s problem, not his. It’s a puzzle he doesn’t want to have on his plate.)

Career Writers’ Successes

While you’re thinking about the puzzle of publication promotion (couldn’t resist the alliteration), some words from Jacob Weisman may be hopeful to those of you looking to be career authors.

He said to remember you’re building a career, not just pieces of a career like a draft, interview, or promotion campaign. Judge your success on the right scale, and always remember the overarching career goal. Every step in your career should be a building block (but that doesn’t mean each one must be a success).

Here Weisman’s commentary ends and mine beings. When you’re building a career, one “failure” shouldn’t send you into a dizzying spiral of self-doubt and depression. A really rotten draft does not a rotten writer make: it’s one part of your career, one bit of the groundbreaking and foundation work you need to do. You won’t get anywhere without digging in the dirt for a while, but the dirt shouldn’t get you down. Keep at it, and when you get stuck, get yourself and objective eye.

Further WorldCon insights and commentary are forthcoming, so stay tuned! Today I ran into Brandon Sanderson (I almost didn’t recognize him with his goatee), talked with Liz Gorinsky of Tor, and went to presentations by Pyr and Angry Robot. Hopefully more about what I gathered from all them tomorrow.