Friday, October 31, 2008

Turmoil among major publishers may be a boon for smaller ones

You may have heard recently that amid the financial crisis and the stock market panic, the publishing industry is undergoing a consolidation. Major publishers have announced sizable layoffs and they're "firing" mid-list authors in order to concentrate their efforts on only the A-list authors (the cash cows). As a result, it has become harder than ever for a first-time author to break into the ranks of the published. (If the publishers aren't even keeping established authors with a fan-base around, what are the chances of them signing an unknown with no track record?)

Because of this, many no-name authors (myself included) have resorted to smaller print and ebook publishers as a way of getting a foot in the publishing door. This has resulted in a proliferation of ebook publishers whose cost of entry is much lower than that of a traditional print publisher. (There are no printing or shipping costs associated with ebooks, and a small publisher doesn't have to pay the rent of a Manhattan address.)

One of the things holding back the fledgling ebook industry is a stigma among some readers that these somehow aren't "real" books, because they aren't printed on paper and can't be held. The "can't be held" issue is being resolved by improved ebook reader devices, but work remains to lower costs and improve usability. Another issue is a perception that the quality of ebooks is inferior to that of traditional printed books. There is some truth to this claim, although probably not as much as many people think.

Some of this stigma is due to less-than-professional publishers who are too cheap to do a decent job of editing or creating eye-catching covers for the books, and some of it is due to small publishers feeling they have to accept inferior works simply to have something to publish. (Established authors are unikely to consider them.) As a result, some good books are poorly edited, and some crappy books are published. (No amount of editing can save a crappy book.) Neither situation helps the image of ebooks.

On the other hand, there are many wonderful ebooks that are professionally edited and have gorgeous covers. They're every bit as good as many of the print books released by the large publishing houses, but unknown by most of the reading public. And this latter point brings me back to the beginning of this post.

With many popular mid-list authors being cut by the big publishing houses, some will catch on with smaller print publishers; but odds are many others will find themselves signing with small ebook publishers who treat them as A-listers. Once their books (including backlist titles that have been discontinued by the big publishers) are available as ebooks, their legions of loyal fans will flock to those ebooks. (They won't want to give up their favorite-author fix, after all.) This can only help to fuel the growth of these publishers, and the ebook segment as a whole. At the same time, while these fans are browsing the ebook publishers' sites, they're bound to "discover" some of the other talented, but unknown, authors there.

Ironically, the cost-cutting moves by the big publishers will end up hurting them in the end, as many of their customers leave them to follow the authors they cut adrift. The more "name" authors that sign with ebook publishers, the faster ebooks will become mainstream, and the sooner the major publishers will be forced to publish ebooks themselves to keep from falling behind--further legitimizing ebooks as an alternative to printed books. A decade from now, there may be no such thing as new printed books anymore--only dusty relics of a bygone age, sitting on the same shelf as 8-track tapes, Betamax cartridges, and wired telephones.


Update on "My Other Car is a Spaceship"

I recently workshopped my fourth novel, My Other Car is a Spaceship, to see if I could improve Chapter 1, which I felt was too "talky."

I'm pleased to report that I was successful. By adding three short scenes to the Prologue and rewriting/rearranging parts of Ch. 1, I was able to eliminate about a thousand words of conversation from Ch. 1. I think the new combination of Prologue and Ch. 1 has more of a sense of urgency than before and moves faster.

I still have some polishing to do, but I expect to begin submitting it to publishers shortly.


Sunrise Destiny being edited

Good news! My editor (Melissa) at Red Rose Publishing started editing Sunrise Destiny (my third sci-fi novel) last night. It's too soon yet to get a release date, but if the manuscript requires as little work as I think it will, I'm expecting sooner rather than later. (That is, maybe January rather than February.)

I'll keep you posted as I learn more.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 66)

I'm running low on words, but I still have a few left:

Sherrif or Sherriff vs. Sheriff

Wrong: There’s a new Sherrif in town.

Right: There’s a new Sheriff in town.

Sheriff (the law in these here parts) is often misspelled. Don’t let this sidewinder bushwhack you, pardner.

Opps vs. Oops

Wrong: Opps! Sorry about that.

Right: Oops! Sorry about that.

I have no idea why oops (an expression of chagrin or dismay as one’s mistake or clumsy act) shows up as opps so often. Opps doesn’t even sound like oops. Undoubtedly it’s a typo sometimes, but when the same person misspells it opps multiple times, it must be more than a typo.

Stay tuned for the next installment.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 65)

Here are some more words to ponder:

Set up vs. Setup

Wrong: You can setup the stereo system over there.

Right: You can set up the stereo system over there.

Right: That’s a nice stereo setup you have.

In this context, set up is a verb phrase that describes the action of assembling something or making it ready for use. This particular use of setup is as a noun that refers to the equipment or items necessary for a particular activity or period, or the way things are arranged.

Que or Cue vs. Queue

Wrong: Cue up at the ticket office.

Right: Queue up at the ticket office.

To queue up is to get in line or line up. The spelling isn’t intuitive (another word borrowed from the French) and often gets mangled as cue or que. A cue is a hint, guiding suggestion, or prompt (among other meanings), as in “That was his cue to enter.” or “Cue the music.” Que is simply a misspelling of queue (or an obsolete term for a half-farthing coin). So take a cue and get in queue.

I'll have more words for you shortly.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 64)

Here are some more words to watch out for:

Longest vs. Longer

Wrong: The Queen Mary is the longest of the two ships.

Right: The Queen Mary is the longer of the two ships.

Use longer or shorter when referring to one of only two; use longest or shortest when referring to one of three or more.

Shone vs. Shown vs. Shined

Wrong: She shown the light down into the grave.

Right: She shone the light down into the grave.

Shone, like shined, is the past tense of shine, however they are used differently. Use shone when describing the act of shedding or casting light. (“The moon shone down upon the graveyard.”) Use shined when describing putting a gloss or polish on something (“I shined my shoes to a mirror finish.”), or when referring to someone distinguishing himself. (“He really shined in the high jump competition yesterday!”). On the other hand, shown is unrelated to shine. It’s the past tense of show, and is preceded by was or had: “She was shown the door.” or “He had shown her the proper way to tie a slipknot.”

More next time.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 63)

Here are some more words to mull over:

Dessert vs. Desert

Wrong: She wandered for days, lost in the dessert.

Right: She wandered for days, lost in the desert.

Unless she was eating the world’s largest hot fudge sundae, she was lost in a desert (an extremely dry place that supports only sparse vegetation), not a dessert (the final course of a meal).

Tort vs. Torte

Wrong: That tort was delicious!

Right: That torte was delicious!

A torte is a type of cake containing little or no flour but many eggs and, usually, ground nuts. A tort, on the other hand, is a wrongful act for which a civil lawsuit can be brought (personal injury, for example, but not a breach of contract). While a victorious attorney might refer to a tort as delicious, most of us would find a torte to be tastier.

Come back soon for some more words.