This week’s blog post is over at Women Doing Literary Things, a new series created by critic and blogger Niranjana Iyer in response to VIDA’s survey on women in publishing . My post is called “Money, Literature, Domesticity“, and it’s my attempt to puzzle through some of the contradictions, triumphs, and frustrations of being one of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Posts Tagged ‘publishing’
It’s okay, friends – I’m not up on my piracy soapbox today. But I was recently asked for my general opinion of ebooks and realized, I seldom think about them. As you know, I love books with a fervour that approaches the religious and have plenty of opinions about technology, but where those two things collide, I just shrug and go, “Meh.”
Basically, I’m suspicious of the medium. Dedicated e-readers look frumpy, cumbersome, fragile. When I look at them, I think, “Landfill.” Smartphones are sleeker and newer iPads have some green credentials, but they’re still not that sustainable. Analyses vary, but the number I hear most is that you have to read at least 40 ebooks a year to outweigh the environmental cost of the same number of new paper books. (That’s if you believe the most-quoted figure.) For how many years? More than it takes to get the next generation e-reader, for sure.
I already spend my days on a laptop, drive a car, fly long distances to visit family, and eat for pleasure rather than sustenance. Sometimes, I slip carrot peelings into the garbage instead of the composter. And without going all Willy Loman on you, I’m putting off buying a dishwasher because new ones are designed to last only 6-8 years. I think I’m turning into a cranky hippie but basically, I dislike stuff.
So today, I’m thinking of things that need to happen before I’d want an e-reader or smartphone. My first device should:
- last more than 5 years
- be made without sweatshop labour
- be recyclable (and not just in theory)
- cost less energy to produce than, say, 25 paper books (roughly the number I bought new last year)
- be beautiful
And that’s excluding all the readerly functions I’d want: huge range of titles, full-text searchability, linked index, ability to turn more than one page at a time, proper illustrations.
What about you? What are your criteria for getting an e-reader? If you already have one, what persuaded you it was worthwhile?
Yesterday, a discussion about illegal e-book downloads exploded on Twitter. Some of the comments were illuminating, others sanctimonious, still others plain illogical. It makes for frustrating reading. (You can find the unedited discussion here.)
In brief, though, lots of readers appear to believe that illegal downloads are “like a library card on the Internet”. There are lots of problems with this assumption and today I’m just going to pick at the 3 most basic:
1. Libraries buy books and lend them as a community service (paid for with your taxes). “Free ebook” sites steal books for personal profit.
2. When you borrow a library book, you agree to return it after a short period. You are under no obligation to return a stolen ebook.
3. Authors are paid for their work when libraries buy their books. Authors earn nothing from pirated ebooks.
Basically, downloading illegal copies of ebooks is theft. Authors who can’t get paid for their work may soon be out of work. Publishers who can’t earn back the cost of producing books may reduce the number of books they publish.
This is extremely simplistic, of course, and I hope you don’t feel personally patronized. But for much of yesterday’s Twitter discussion, this was the level of discourse and so I started with the basics.
And now I’m tired, and jaded, and these specious comparisons of book-thieves to librarians make me want to soothe my spirit at a real library: one with ebooks and traditional books, one staffed by smart, bookish people with plenty of great recommendations, one that’s a vibrant part of my community. I hope you’ll join me.
This was the #1 question that came tumbling out of the students at my first school visit. At four different sessions, in different-sized groups, students ranging from grades 9 to 12 all wanted to know the secret. And, sadly, there’s no magic for that. I don’t even think the question “how do you get published” is answerable, because routes to publication are so varied; no single path will do. I can, however, tell you how my first novel was published.
I finished my novel (and that’s a whole different series of questions which I’ve answered in parts, week by week, and will continue to do so and collect as FAQs). Once I had a complete, polished manuscript, I wrote a query letter for literary agents. I won’t get into query letters here because lit agent Nathan Bransford has already done a splendid job explaining them. Kristin Nelson, another impossibly chipper agent, posts further examples at Pub Rants. So I shined up my query and my husband, Nick, emailed it to six literary agents. Why not send it myself? Partly because I am thin-skinned and an obsessive email-checker at the most relaxed of times, and partly because Nick is lovely, amazingly supportive of my writing, and utterly fearless with stuff like this.
I got lucky: in two days I had six replies, all of which were requests for more. In five cases, “more” was a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters; the sixth agent, from William Morris, simply said, “I’d love to read it”, so I sent the full ms. A week later, this agent’s assistant emailed to say that she was halfway through, “really enjoying it”, and would I let her know if I had interest from other agencies in the meantime. (I cannot tell you how many times I stared at the words “really enjoying it” and wondered what secret code they masked.) A couple of days later, I heard from the hard-working assistant again: the agent thought the book had merit but didn’t like it enough to represent it, so she’d passed it on to a colleague, Rowan Lawton. I did a tentative happy dance.
When Rowan emailed me a couple of weeks later, she had some questions and detailed notes for me. The ms I’d submitted was for an adult historical mystery. Rowan, however, pointed out that it was really a coming-of-age story and asked if I’d consider revising it as a YA novel. I was completely surprised. But when I thought about it, I realized that she was right. Those changes would make it a better novel.
I cut 30,000 words (paring the ms from 95,000 to 65,000 words) and compressed the plot. I changed the main characters’ ages – Mary Quinn went from 21 to 17, and James Easton from 29 to 19. One thing I was careful NOT to do was simplify or lighten the novel’s themes and ideas. I hate being talked down to – always have – and would despise myself for doing so to others. Rowan and I did two edits together before we were ready to go out on submission. At this point, I officially signed with William Morris.
My job now was to buckle down, write the sequel, and try not to obsess too much; I wasn’t the one selling the book. This was, shall we say, challenging. But a few weeks later, I opened an email (I’d been on holiday with my extended family) from Rowan that said, “I have some great news for you! Do give me a call…” ARGH. It was a Friday afternoon in Vancouver and thus darkest night in London. That was one of the longest weekends of my life. Eventually, Monday came around and I heard the News: Walker Books wanted World English rights for three novels. (I have carefully resisted the use of exclamation points here, in case I never stop. But they’re there, in my head.)
And that’s how Spy came to be published.