The Old Editor Brings It

This post by John E. McIntyre originally appeared on The Baltimore Sun on 10/5/15.

The question: I believe you are an expert at this. Please explain the usage of take and bring! I am driven crazy by what, seems to me, is the mixed and incorrect usage of these words.

The Old Editor answers: What causes distress is a schoolroom oversimplification, the curse of English grammar.

Your teachers likely told you that bring is for movement toward the speaker, take for movement away from the speaker. This is apt in many cases.

But that distinction collapses when, as Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says, when the point of view is irrelevant. This will require some explication.

Grammar Girl gives an example: “The simple rules fall apart when you consider an event in the future where nobody has arrived yet. Do you bring rum cake to the school bazaar or do you take rum cake to the school bazaar? It simply depends on where you want to place the emphasis of the sentence—which perspective you want to adopt.”


Read the full post on The Baltimore Sun.


The Consistency Of Your Voice

This post by Ksenia Anske originally appeared on her site on 9/29/15.

You know that feeling you get when you read a fantastic book and it gives you shivers? When every page you turn makes you want to read more and more, and every sentence is so bloody good you want to read it twice and when you get to the end you’re devastated the book is over? I have been pondering about this lately, having recently read three books that took my breath away, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway and THE RITUAL by Adam Nevill and CRUDDY by Lynda Barry, and having dug up more information on all [the] authors and having read this interview with Adam Nevill and having put WHAT IT IS by Lynda Barry (a book on her creative method) and Hemingway’s ON WRITING on hold at the library, and all this pondering led me to write this post.

What was it so special about these books that got me?

The consistency of the voices. And where does this consistency come from? From rewriting until you bleed out of your eyes, it seems. In his interview Adam said that “there are ten versions of The Ritual on my computer. In fact there are some chapters that I cut out. Although I really liked the chapters, my inner reader said: this doesn’t feel right…. You have to trust your inner reader, write a draft and then leave it. When you go back to it, ensure you look at it with fresh eyes. If you’re only able to write a couple of evenings a week, because of work and other commitments, every time you return to it, you often find that the voice has changed. A lot of the re-writing is about making the voice consistent throughout.”


Read the full post on Ksenia Anske’s site.


Connecting With Book Blogs

This post by Stephanie Barko originally appeared on The San Francisco Book Review on 10/2/15.

When Technorati quietly changed their business model earlier this year and quit categorizing and ranking blogs, I began to wonder how to identify the top book blogs going forward. It turns out there are still plenty of ways to determine the best book blogs to partner with. It just takes a little time and effort.

Where are those book blogs whose followings we can’t wait to borrow for free? Let’s take a look at some of the options out there for finding and connecting with book blogs.



Alexa is a good resource for blog traffic stats, but it’s not free like Technorati was. However, Alexa offers some pretty savvy tools, such as:

Which sites to pay attention to: Easy-to-use tools let you narrow down the web to specific sites that meet your criteria.

What a site is doing and how well it’s working: Use Alexa’s intelligence tools to pick up traffic stats and demographics.

How a site compares to others: Benchmark any site to see it in relation to competitors.

These are excellent tools that will definitely locate quality book blogging sites, but prices range from $10 to $149 per month. It requires a bit of an investment.




Read the full post on The San Francisco Book Review.


Let Your Green-Eyed Monster Make You Insanely Successful

This post by Marcy McKay originally appeared on Bestseller Labs on 10/14/14.

Every writer has experienced this emotion. When ‘it’ happens, your head explodes, rage swirls through you, while an imaginary fist pounds your gut.

When? Why?

It so happens that overnight, the internet has been buzzing with the latest literary whiz kid, who hit the New York Times Bestsellers List.

“It was my first try at a novel,” she chirps.

Your bitterness tastes like bile.  Rage and resentment flood your veins.  That poison you’re feeling is…


No matter how the scenario plays out, the end result is the same.  You hate another writer for having what you want: fame, fortune and fabulousness.  All that glory should be yours.

This emotion is so all-consuming that its evil twin – envy, is listed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  The desire for others’ traits, status, abilities or situation is such an offense here in the human realm that your punishment is to spend eternity in the freezing waters of Hell.

I didn’t even know that Hell had freezing waters, but I’d rather not find out.

Jealous Much?

Jealousy does not work and play well with others.  There’s no room for abundance.  Only you get to be king of the mountain.

This recent Salon article showcases how one author’s deep envy for John Green on his success with “The Fault in Our Stars” almost destroyed their friendship.


Read the full post on Bestseller Labs.


Anatomy of A Query Rejection

This post by Kristin Nelson originally appeared on Pub Rants on 7/7/15.

This June, I taught a query workshop at Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Lit Fest. Afterward, one participant approached and asked me to read a response letter she had received (not from me). She wanted to know if it was a “standard” rejection letter. I read it aloud and was a little chagrined to discover just how similar it was to the letter I had been using for years. I told her that yes, this was not a personal letter but a standard rejection. Two days later, I was chastised by an aspiring writer who said it was time for us to change our standard rejection letter. Obviously that poor person had received our letter multiple times.

But I took the chastisement to heart. It was time for a change. So I’m going to share with you, my newsletter readers, our standard rejection letter and explain why I chose the verbiage I did.


KN: I actually do input the writer’s name. This business is so impersonal (some agents don’t even respond at all if they aren’t interested in a query), but I always want writers to be acknowledged as human beings. Even though it takes longer to respond to queries.

Thank you so much for thinking of me for your query. I wish I could offer a more personalized response but on average, I receive 500+ email query letters a week.

KN: This is true. In fact, I receive way more than 500 queries a week. Recently I’ve been averaging about 100 to 150 email query letters a day. Don’t let these stats daunt you. If you are serious about your career, you’ll persevere. Know the odds, but give them only the weight of a side note. I have signed many a client after finding them in our query inbox.


Read the full post on Pub Rants.


The Secret to a Powerful Author Brand

This post by Kristen Lamb originally appeared on her blog on 9/28/15.

Last time we talked a little about our author brand and why, these days, our brand is almost as important as the books we write. It is an awesome time to be a writer, but also a scary one. Why can’t it be like the good old days when all we had to do was write the book?

Because that world no longer exists and, frankly, it wasn’t all that great to begin with.

Granted, in the pre-digital publishing world we authors didn’t need to tweet or blog or be on-line, but it was also a world with a 93% failure rate. According to the Book Expo of America, as late as 2006, 93% of all books (traditionally and non-traditionally published) sold less than a 1000 copies. Only one out of ten traditionally published authors would ever see a second book in print.

These days, anyone can be published. This is good and bad and we can talk about that another time. But with more titles than ever before and bookstores becoming an endangered species? Our brand is our lifeline. Whether we decide to self-publish or traditionally publish is a business decision only we can make, but we still must have a viable author brand if we hope to sell books.

So What is a Brand?


Read the full post on Kristen Lamb’s blog.


Forget The Book, Have You Read This Irresistible Story On Blurbs?

This post by Colin Dwyer originally appeared on NPR on 9/27/15.

Whatever the old adage might warn, there is a bit of merit to judging a book by its cover — if only in one respect. Consider the blurb, one of the most pervasive, longest-running — and, at times, controversial — tools in the publishing industry.

For such a curious word, the term “blurb” has amassed a number of meanings in the decades since it worked its way into our vocabulary, but lately it has referred to just one thing: a bylined endorsement from a fellow writer — or celebrity — that sings the praises of a book’s author right on the cover of their book.

They’re claims couched in quote marks, homes for words you might never hear otherwise — like compelling, or luminous, or unputdownable. Heck, at least three books have reportedly inspired celebrated memoirist Frank McCourt to say “you’ll claw yourself with pleasure.”

Nearly as long as they’ve been around, they’ve been treated by a vocal few with suspicion, occasionally even outright snark and scorn. Author Jennifer Weiner, for instance, sees some value in them, but suggests they’ve been getting over the top; scholar Camille Paglia, not one to mince words, called them “absolutely appalling” in a 1991 speech.


Read the full post on NPR.


People Are Not Reading The e-Books They Buy Anymore

This post by Michael Kozlowski originally appeared on Good E Reader on 9/20/15.

Are people reading the e-books they purchase from companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo? There is growing research data that is supporting the notion that people are not reading the digital titles they buy online and for the most part, they are never even opened.

At Book Expo America last April, Kobo dived deep into global reading behavior and analyzed the data.  They found that 60% of e-books that are purchased from their complete line of apps, e-readers, tablets and via the web are never opened. Interestingly, the more expensive the book was, the more likely the reader would at least start it.

There are other companies that are also checking out reading behavior and providing some very interesting data. Jellybooks is a young startup and they have developed e-book tracking software that users opt into getting their reading habits tracked in exchange for free or discounted items. Over 100 publishers are now using their API for their own e-book library, including Harlequin, which uses the code for free romance novels from their new loyalty program.


Read the full post on Good E Reader.


A Glossary Of Typographic Terms

This post by Janie Kliever originally appeared on Canva on 7/20/15.

The world of typography often seems like it has its very own language, full of serifs, strokes, and swashes.

Sorting out all those terms can be confusing in itself, so we’ve compiled a visual glossary that will guide you through the lingo — whether you’re an aspiring typeface designer or just a general typography enthusiast. Learning the building blocks of typography will help you better understand how to pick a suitable font and apply it effectively within your design projects.


The Basics: Typefaces Categories & Styles

01. Font/Typeface:


Back in the days of metal type and printing presses, fonts and typefaces were two different things — the typeface was the specific design of the letters, say Times New Roman or Baskerville; while the font referred to the particular size or style of that typeface, say 10 point regular or 24 point italic (each created as its own collection of cast metal letters and other characters). Today, however, many designers use the terms more or less interchangeably. The best and most straightforward modern definition I’ve run across (courtesy of Fontshop) goes as follows:

“A collection of letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols used to set text (or related) matter. Although font and typeface are often used interchangeably, font refers to the physical embodiment (whether it’s a case of metal pieces or a computer file) while typeface refers to the design (the way it looks). A font is what you use, and a typeface is what you see.”

02. Character:


An individual symbol of the full character set that makes up a typeface; may take the form of a letter, number, punctuation mark, etc.

03. Alternate Character / Glyph:


Read the full post, which includes many more graphics, on Canva.


Round-Down: On Women Writers And the Fallout from ‘Confession’ in the Digital Age

This post by Cathe Shubert originally appeared on Ploughshares on 9/22/15.

Social media is in the spotlight—or crosshairs, as it may be–in the literary landscape this week. Several articles and author interviews have touched upon both the benefits and the tremendous costs known to an author maintaining their online presence, none of them coming to a firm conclusion about whether it’s better to be Harper Lee or Hanya Yanagihara, Cheryl Strayed or Elena Ferrante when promoting a book. All of the attention being paid to how we market ourselves online has me asking: Does social media pose yet another disadvantage to women writers? Or is it a blessing that gives us easier access to mainstream audiences? Women are particularly vulnerable to the lure of public confession that the internet seems to demand—and they are most likely to be the ones to suffer fallout from it.

After Laura Bennett’s piece in Slate raised the question of whether publication of personal confessions is exploitative, The Guardian interviewed a variety of editors for outlets that often publish gone-viral first person essays. Curiously, all of these editors were themselves women and not all of them agreed on whether women were more likely to write confessionals than men.


Read the full post on Ploughshares.


Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?

This post by Heather Havrilesky originally appeared on New York Magazine’s The Cut on 9/16/15.

Dear Polly,

I feel like you get lots of letters from folks either starting out pursuing their passion, or looking for a passion to begin with, but here I am, midlife, mid-career, full of passion but in a slump.

I’m a writer — a peer of yours, I guess, though age-wise, I’m staring straight at the big 5-0. And I’m stuck. I can’t seem to get to the next level and I’m frustrated. I do well enough that it’s a bona fide career — not “here’s my Brooklyn duplex” successful, but a humble income as a freelancer, which, combined with what my partner makes in a stable job, sets us up okay. There are books with my name on the spine on my shelf. Some good reviews (some truly awful). All assembled, I’m a “success.” But not really. I can’t talk about this with many people because as someone who is mid-career and mid-level, I’m not crying from the outfield here, and I can’t be picked up with a “Dust yourself off, kid, you’re young!” speech, either. It’s hard enough to make a profession of writing so I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Many, many people are trudging uphill, trying to get a toehold, so I know how good I’ve had it, relatively speaking. With so many earnest climbers on this Everest just trying to get to base camp, they can’t see you’re clinging to the side of the mountain, running out of oxygen and losing sight of the summit.


Read the full letter, and Polly’s lengthy reply, on The Cut.


I Gave A Speech About Race To The Publishing Industry And No One Heard Me

This post by Mira Jacob originally appeared on Buzzfeed on 9/17/15.

We are ready for a publishing industry that represents the world we live in, and it will ignore us — writers and readers of color — at its peril.

Last night, I walked into a mini-disaster. Or to be more precise, I stood on a chair in it.

A few weeks ago, when Publisher’s Weekly asked me to give the keynote speech in a night honoring the industry’s young publishing stars, I jumped at the chance. Talk about your last year, they told me. Talk about what it was like getting published.

My last year has been intense. My book The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing came out, I spent a few months touring internationally, and from a distance, it looked like one big party. Up close, it looked a bit different. This was something I really wanted to get into, as sometimes when we talk about the sad statistics facing writers of color in publishing, they become just that: statistics. I wanted to back that up by talking about what it actually looks like.

But fate wasn’t with me last night. The sound system at the event was terrible, which was a real problem. But even as I stood up on a chair and yelled to deliver my speech, half the room turned away and started talking over me. By the time I was done, I was talking to a very small ring of people, which felt, well, awful. More awful were the disappointed faces of the minorities in the crowd, the few who hugged me as I walked out and whispered, We wish they had heard it.

Well, I do, too. Anyone got a chair?

True story: A few months ago, a producer from a literary show on Boston Public Radio asked me to read a section of my book on air. I sent it to him and he said he would need to edit it down. I totally got it. Radio is a different medium. Stories need to change. Sure! Change away. Then I got the edits back. Some of them were normal cutting 300 words to 25, but there were others. My characters’ names, he wrote, were confusing. There were three in the scene, could I cut them to two if I was going to stick with the unfamiliar names? And then there was this other note, even stranger. In a sentence setting the scene up, I had written “three East Indian teenagers, kids of immigrants, sit talking on the roof of the house.” In his notes, the producer had crossed out East Indian and written “ASIAN INDIAN.” Asian Indian. As if that is a thing that anyone has ever said to anyone else, excluding the sentence — “Not like American Indian, like Asian Indian.” And the note went on: “Alas!” — not kidding, he really said Alas! like he was some Victorian maiden — “Alas! Americans aren’t familiar with the term East Indian — it’s just not something we say over here.”

This is when my soul kind of made a Chewbacca noise. That horrible howl.


Read the full post on Buzzfeed.


Alfred Hitchcock's Bomb: Suspense, Surprise, and Emotion in Narrative

This post by Peter Ginna originally appeared on his Dr. Syntax blog on 9/21/10.

Although I am a nonfiction publisher at the moment, I still love to read fiction in a variety of genres, from literary novels to thrillers. And I think for most editors it’s impossible to read a book without your editorial reflex twitching from time to time, especially when you see the author make a misstep. This week I have been reading an adventure novel that made me think yet again about the distinction between surprise and suspense–and in a broader way, what draws readers into a narrative.

Something I frequently say to nonfiction narrative authors is, “Imagine how they’re going to do this when they make your book into a movie.”

Filmmakers learn to boil a story down to its essence, and to find the most dramatic way to organize the elements of a narrative. They think about this stuff all the time. And it was Alfred Hitchcock who gave one of the most famous explanations of how suspense and surprise differ.

There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean.


Read the full post on Dr. Syntax.


WorldCat Service Lets You Search Over 10,000 Libraries Around The World

This post by April Hamilton originally appeared on her Digital Media Mom site on 9/16/15. It’s included here because, combined with inter-library loans, this free service is an extremely valuable research tool for authors.


The very useful and totally FREE WorldCat site and mobile app let users search a global network of libraries for books, CDs, articles and more: pretty much anything you’d find in physical form in a public library.



Sign Up For A FREE User Account, Or Not…
It’s free to sign up for a user account, and having an account gives users the ability to create lists, bibliographies and reviews. But you don’t have to sign up to use the site’s search functionality. For example, look at this search results page I got for a specific book without having a user account (tap or click on images to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window):



Notice that the site used my location information, probably based on my IP address, to tell me where I could find libraries close to me (red arrow). Scrolling down, I can find a listing of libraries in my general area that currently have this book in their collections:



Read the full post on Digital Media Mom.


That’s Too Much: The Problem with Prolific Writers

This post by Drew Nellins Smith originally appeared on The Millions on 9/2/15.

Lately I’ve been struck by the notion that there might be no books more lost than those buried in the overwhelming bibliographies of authors who have simply published too damn much.

On Thursday, The New York Times published an op-ed defense of prolific writers by one of the modern era’s most prolific writers himself, Stephen King. It was a timely bit of writing for me, a non-prolific writer with a first book deal in the works, for whom the question of appropriate literary output is often debated.

In King’s take, which is certainly worth a read, he basically argues two things. One, that there are great works buried in the overwhelming bibliographies of some writers. (i.e. “Alexandre Dumas wrote ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ — and some 250 other novels.”) And two, that for some authors, like him and Joyce Carol Oates, “prolificacy is sometimes inevitable.” He describes the crazy-making clamor of the voices in his head since his youth, all the stories crying out to be written.


Read the full post on The Millions.