Archive for November, 2006

How I Promoted My Book

November 27th, 2006

Note: I really do try not to duplicate my posts between this blog and my personal blog, but every once in a while I write something that I think is pertinent to both places. Feel free to comment either here or on my personal blog entry.

Infoquakes Cereal BoxIt’s now been about five months since Pyr published my first novel Infoquake. It seems as good a time as any to sit back and take stock of my promotional efforts. What worked, what didn’t work, what should I have done more of, what should I have done less of?

When I started to make a list of all the promotional efforts I’ve made in the past year, I started to feel — well, a little embarrassed. To an outsider, it must look like I do nothing all day but come up with ways to move copies of Infoquake. The “Infoquakes Cereal” pic here is meant to be a joke, but honestly, sometimes it feels like I’ve tried everything but a sugary cereal for kids.

(Quick aside: Have you ever noticed that when companies say their cereal is “part of this nutritious breakfast,” the cereal box is always sitting next to… a complete nutritious breakfast?)

Here, then, are the promotional efforts I did that I think were well worth doing:

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Contracts 101: Copyright

November 22nd, 2006

Long time ago I started to talk about contracts and what they mean. I figure it’s time I took up the gauntlet (as opposed to the gantlet) again. Last time it was Grant of Rights; the next paragraph in my contract covers Copyright.

The copyright in the Work will belong to the author. The Publisher is hereby authorized to register the copyright in the United States copyright in the name of the Author. The Publisher agrees the imprint the copyright notice authorized by the United States copyright laws in each copy of the Work distributed by the Publisher. The Author agrees with respect to any rights reserved to the Author hereunder to take all steps necessary to protect the copyright in the Work.

At the end of the graph my Lovely Agent (hereafter LA) has inserted an important sentence: “The publisher will require all sublicensees to imprint the copyright notice.” Why is that important? While you (technically) own copyright from the moment you write something, your hold on the copyright depends, to a certain extent, on vigorous defense thereof (which is why there’s that sentence about the Author agreeing “to take all steps necessary to protect the copyright in the work”). So if you and the Publisher make a deluxe subrights sale to AudioBooks Am Us, the publisher is required to make AudioBooks Am Us include the copyright notice (and make them include it correctly–no slugging in someone else’s name instead of yours).

In the days when I worked at Tor, I was the person responsible for filing the TX forms (the forms registering copyright in a text). My understanding of the law is that you do own copyright from the moment you’ve written your Work–but filing the form cements your copyright in the finished work as it appears.

To return to that vigorous defense business: this is where things like fan fiction can cause trouble for a copyright holder. If Mona Ffysh-Ripple, author of Love’s Avocado Dip, sues Deirdre Deebleknight for infringement of copyright, and Deirdre can prove that there are dozens, maybe hundreds of fan fic stories on the internet using her characters, plot and situations, Deirdre can argue that Mona has failed to “vigorously defend” copyright in her work, leaving the door open for her to borrow stuff too. This is a vexed subject: a lot of publishers/production companies know that there’s a marketing benefit to having people so immersed in your world that they want to continue that experience; still, you don’t want to lose copyright and its economic benefits.

And really, that’s what it comes down to: yes, copyright protects you from somone who might steal your work and say it is hers. But in the final analysis it’s copyright that protects your right to make money from your work (and the publisher’s right to make money from your work, and you’d better believe they care about that–publishers have mortgages and food bills too).

Quiet on the set! “Clove Smoke” in production.

November 13th, 2006

Well, last night was a first for me for a couple things, the second of which was a complete surprise: It was not only my screenwriting debut (actually story credit with script consultation, but most of the dialogue is right from my short story), but also my acting debut, a cameo with two brief lines of dialogue.

I also have the contract in hand now, so I can go ahead and broach radio (or actually blog) silence.  Last spring, I met up with Robert Mims, a new producer looking for material for a short film.  I sent him a copy of “Clove Smoke,” a short of mine that’s been well-received and even translated into Spanish.  Next thing I know, I’m looking at a screenplay adaptation by Robert’s writing partner, Justin Queen.

A thumbs up, and next thing we’re in the fast track.  Principal shooting finished yesterday at the House of Shields in San Francisco, where I’d gone both to get to see the actual production of the filming of my story, and to set myself up for a cameo as background.  Stephen Watts, the director, then surprised me by offering me the role of the bartender, since it gave me a speaking line and also offered some contrast visually since I’d known the color palette the production designer was going with and I’d dressed to match it, adding the red that the principal actors weren’t wearing for the scene.

I also got to meet the actors, Anissa and Jason, who are playing Aurora and Jimmy, a strange bit of serendipity giving them the same initials.  They were great, both in terms of acting and in looking the parts.  The second, in fact, even better than I’d pictured them, thanks to Anissa’s wardrobe (she’s also a model) and Kirsten Larsen’s skill as production designer.  Richard Cascio, the director of photography, was also getting some amazing shots, or at least from what I was getting to see literally looking over his shoulder–one shot was from the bardtender’s perspective, so I was standing right behind him so Jason could get the right line of sight to my eyes for when we later reversed the shot.

And I stepped on a light box one of the grips had left behind the bar, mistaking it for some sort of platform you’re supposed to step on.  However, one fluorescent bulb is not a disaster and it was fascinating to watch a full production up close.  The dolly shot curving around the bar was particularly amazing.

What was also amazing was the location.  The House of Shields is a hundred years old, literally, being built in 1906 and opened in 1908 (delays caused by the great quake and fire).  Edwardian lamps, the bar from the old Palace Hotel, coffered ceilings and so on.  Gorgeous. House of Shields interior

In case anyone wondered

November 10th, 2006

I’ve been gone because I’ve been ill again.  Will return in full as soon as I catch up on Book 3 and other neglected aspects of Life.


Openings: What happens next?

November 6th, 2006

An interesting discussion came up with someone I do a lot of writing talk with. She’s been studying openings very closely, and has come up with some extremely fine observations on what works and what doesn’t in genre, but she will choose the time and place when she shares the insights she’s still gathering.

But this particular discussion came up generally, over on Hatrack River.  (I haven’t read the discussion–no time, though I do have an interest–only her summary.)

The topic was of pertinence especially to genre writers, I thought, and that is, readers at the beginning of a new book want less to know what is happening than to find out what is happening next.

It took me some time to wrap my tiny brain round this concept, but once I did, I thought, hoo boy, this is a toughie, at least for me.  Especially at the start of a sequel in a roman fleuve storyarc. What is meant is this: so many of us are anxious to get the reader oriented in our world, and how it works, that we tend to shove too much up at the front.  We don’t want to risk losing the reader, but also, we are so invested in our world and its workings that all our details are fascinating to us.  Until the reader gets invested, it’s just more detail to try to figure out, while one is also trying to pick up character clues and hints about what’s going on.  Thus a reader might get overwhelmed with stuff that will hopefully mean a lot to them as they get into the story–but at the beginning, one doesn’t know what’s important and what is just setting or backdrop  Gulp.  Holding hand up in guilt.

This is a particular bugbear for sequels in genre, because we can’t just blithely add in a quick phrase here and there: “Mr  Detective Hero, who was raised on the streets of New York…”  “Ms. Ongoing Love Interest, a professional masseuse…”  Each quick phrase provides us with braink-links to all kinds of data, but similar phrases added to the opening of book two in The Dragon-Vampires in Space trilogy (“Captain Thundernuts of the sporble-craft Stenchpuff…”  “S’llot’ta the zipril of famed Klusterduk”) don’t clue us in to anything–just pile on the questions.

Readers want to know what’s happening and who it’s happening to.  That’s first.  And then why, and where.  Trying to remember that now as my mantra, and I thought I’d share it and see what others think.

Once Upon A Time

November 4th, 2006

Celebrities as authors of childrens’ books — and so successful they are too!

For true snarky attitude toward same, that no one could do so well as a member of the British literary critical community (and I intend this in the best of ways!), I’ve quoted a sample from the article.

As to why They Do It:

“But the most plausible explanation, I think, is this: “I’ve been making up bedtime stories for my children and suddenly I’ve had a brainwave. These stories are good! These stories are brilliant! I would be failing in my moral duty to my adoring public if I did not put them down on paper.

“If my theory holds true, it is scary, because it suggests that celebrities believe the hype about their own abilities.”

The Result:

” … Well, if you are looking for the next Beatrix Potter or Maurice Sendak, you will not find it here (Sendak is top of the Times list, but he is looking rather beleaguered). As Anita Silvey, author of 100 Best Books for Children, puts it: “Celebrity books are one of the great negative features of children’s publishing in the 21st century. If I were still a publisher, as I used to be, none of these manuscripts would make it past my slush pile.”

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Fonts & Typography

November 2nd, 2006

I have to admit I have a big love for fonts and typography. The way the different typefaces look, they way they help to set the mood of a book before you even read a single word on the page. I’ve noticed them ever since I saw my first illustrated capital in a book of fairytales before I even could read.

Consequently interesting typefaces have always caught my eye, and while I dearly love some of the fonts that came out of the 90s revolution of computer typography, most of them looked just awkward/grungy with far too much attitude and far too little readability.

So I set about making a few fonts of my own, or rather I should say, digitizing, cleaning up and generally twiddling with typefaces from old books that weren’t available from any of the modern font foundries. I put them out on one of my websites, and apart from a guy in Italy who loved one of the fonts until it crashed his computer (very complex fonts will do that), I didn’t hear anything more until last year when I was contacted by Bonnier Publications A/S of Denmark, who wanted to use my WitchHunt font for their history magazine. Of course, they also wanted a few extra Danish characters (and Swedish ones as well, for the Swedish edition), along with open type format and a few other whistles and bells.

WitchHunt font sampleUnfortunately, I’d packed up my fontography programs a few years and two computers before. Fortunately, however, I knew Dave Nalle who runs Fontcraft, about the top historic typeface company out there, and he not only agreed to make the extra characters for Bonnier, but asked me to join Fontcraft as one of their designers. So now WitchHunt is available from Fontcraft, in its newly prettified and gussied up form (thanks, Dave), as part of the Halloween 2006 promotion. Even better, it’s soon to be followed by some of my other typefaces and ornaments.

Currently rockin’ the William Morris vibe here. It’s very fun to have both fiction and typefaces of yours being out there.