Got Kronos by Jeremy Robinson. Read Kronos by Jeremy Robinson. Loved Kronos by Jeremy Robinson. Seriously, if Peter Benchley mixed with a little Steve Alten mixed with a little… well, Jeremy Robinson is your thing, then Kronos is a must for your bookshelf. This book takes the terror from the deep to a new level, because the characters are extremely well developed. It’s not just about a giant sea monster that eats people. It’s about the people in the story. There’s action and spine tingIiness, but there’s also characters you actually care about. I’ve read Robinson’s earlier work, and they were good, but this one puts him on a whole new level of writer goodliness. Translation for those of you who hate words like goodliness, Kronos is an excellent book. Buy it. Read it. Love it.
I am an author of little note. I have a small, but growing group of readers who support me (I still can’t bring myself to us the word fans). I have a few author friends, some who are doing quite well for themselves. But what I don’t have is any big name contacts. Those New York Times Bestselling authors who write wonderful, glowing blurbs for up and coming authors to include on their books covers. I don’t live in New York or Maine or somewhere else where they grow bestselling authors like corn. So what is a small town boy like me to do? The answer appears to be unsettlingly simple. Find an authors contact information and ask them. Huh? I thought there would be a secret word or special handshake involved to let them know that I am worthy of their praise. But it seems that’s not the case.
Rose Fox, a reviewer and blogger on Publishers Weekly, regularly writes a column called “Ask a Publicist.” She covered blurbs this week, and I found it extremely informative. Here’s an excerpted bit from Vera Nazarian, Publisher, Norilana Books:
However, it has been my experience that many name authors are willing to look at good new books if they feel the request is done in a professional non-imposing manner, if they have the time to spare, and if–this is very important–the type of work has some relevance to their own genre or field of expertise.
I was also lucky enough to hear a Simon & Schuster editor address this question in a seminar. When asked how do you get the blurbs for your books, she said “We don’t. The author does.” When asked the follow up question, how does the author get the blurb, she simply said, “They ask.”
There you have it, the mystery of the blurb. It sounds like getting a blurb is a lot like getting a publishing deal. You query, and query, and query until someone says yes. Who said publishing isn’t an exact science?
Call me kooky, but I love these stories. Loren Coleman runs a great site called Cryptomundo. I find myself over there quite a bit lately because I’m writing Lost Days, a YA book that includes a storyline that involves Bigfoot. For those of you who don’t know, cryptozoology is the study of unknown or hidden animals. Coleman is one of the leading cryptozoologist in the world today. His book Bigfoot! : The True Story of Apes in America is one of my primary sources for my fictional Bigfoot. I highly recommend it. Very entertaining and educational.
I found this post on his blog, Sasquatch, 1935. It’s a reposting of a Fresno Bee story from 1935. Here’s a quote:
The giants walked with an easy gait across the swamp flats and at the Morris Creek, in the shadow of Little Mystery Mountain, straddled a floating log which they propelled with their long, hairy hands and huge feet across the sluggish glacial stream to the opposite side. There they abandoned the log and climbed hand over hand up the almost perpendicular cliff at a point known as Gibraltar and disappeared into the wooded wilderness at the top of the ridge. They carried two large clubs and walked around a herd of cattle directly in their path.
The reason I find this so interesting is because in my research I’ve found that people think that Bigfoot first made his appearance in 1958 when a bulldozer operator named Jerry Crew discovered prints around his worksite in Humboldt County, California. There are indications now that a man named Ray Wallace may have left those footprints as a prank. It got out of hand when the story spread across the county. People now point to that incident as conclusive evidence that Bigfoot is a fake. While that story made national headlines, it’s not the first appearance of the big ape. Turns out recorded sightings go back much farther. Here’s a link with a pretty comprehensive list of sightings throughout history of the U.S.
I have to tell you that I am having a blast writing this story. If the big bipedal ape is a fake, it has been an incredible coordinated hoax that has lasted centuries and involved inhuman capabilities by the perpetrators. Real or fake, I love the drama.
Most writers spend their entire passion scratching, scribbling, and fighting for the ultimate confirmation of their writing genius, the book deal. It is an elusive creature that lurks in the shadows of all the major publishing houses in New York. To capture it, is at least temporary confirmation that we haven’t been wasting our time tapping out letters, numbers, and spaces on computer screens morning, noon, and night. We’ve all pictured the moment. There are minor difference depending on the dreamer, but by-in-large, it consists of an office space overlooking the Manhattan skyline, a huge mahogany desk, and a pleasant editor holding out an expensive Montblanc pen for you to sign the contract laid out on the desk in front of you. Your smiling agent places her hand on your shoulder and winks. You take a deep breath, and sign the contract. When you try to hand the pen back, the editor insists you keep it. “You’re part of the publishing elite now,” he explains. “No more Bics for you, and that parking ticket… taken care of.”
Okay, so maybe everyone’s dream of that moment isn’t as specific and twisted as mine, but you get the point. I want a book deal not so much for the fame and fortune. In fact, you can keep the fame, and give me a very tiny part of the fortune. I mainly want the acknowledgment that I belong. Is it ego? Is it insecurity? Is it a desperate cry for attention? Yes, to all three. I’m a writer which means I have serious self-esteem issues. Comes with the territory.
Turns out this is a bad year to be pursuing that first contract with one of the major publishers. They are struggling to keep their lights in some cases, and signing untested talent is not high on their priority list. True, I’ve been tested somewhat with my self-published offerings. I have a track record that includes fairly significant sales, awards, decent reviews, and a tiny bit of marketing acumen. Still, to them, I’m a small fish picking off scraps in a big ocean. They are looking for whales that bring their own gigantic current. Whoa… I carried that ocean themed analogy way too far. I apologize.
Here’s the point, I was perfectly happy facing the sea (technically it’s a different theme) of traditional publishing discontent this year. I know the publishing industry because that’s my job. I knew coming into 2009 that the obstacles had increased exponentially this year because of the economy. And then, thanks to a Facebook friend, I stumbled across Authonomy.com, and hope reared its ugly head again.
What is Authonomy.com? It’s a community created by HarperCollins made up of writers and readers. Writers submit their masterpieces chapter by chapter. Readers read the undiscovered tomes and rate them using their own set of criteria. The books that end up in the top 5 for the month, move over to the Editor’s desk where real, honest to goodness editors from HarperCollins read them and determine whether they are good enough to risk offering a publishing deal. Not only are the writers rated, but the readers are rated for the ability to spot talent. It’s really a marvel of online ingenuity. HarperCollins is using the power of Web 2.0 to minimize the risk of discovering talent. I admire and hate them for it. I find myself helplessly drifting back to that dream of the Montblanc pen again. How dare they make me think I have a chance at traditional publishing happiness!
Now, it’s not as simple as uploading your manuscript and waiting for the praise to rain down on you. You have to participate in the community, and make connections just like with any pursuit of art and business. But the opportunity is there, and it feels more proactive than the strategy of submitting the old fashioned way and finding my way onto the slush pile. Thankfully, I have an agent who does that for me now, but still if I can backdoor this thing with a deal through Authonomy.com, she may yet be able to put her hand on my shoulder and give me that wink.
I just got word that John Updike died of lung cancer today. Very Sad. He was a great writer who had a tremendous impact on American literature.
Here’s a link to Updike’s A&P.
I asked Stephanie, the winner of the Kindle drawing, to send me a picture of her enjoying the ultra-cool digital reader. Here she is with the Kindle to which she added her own style to make it uniquely Stephanie. Here’s what she had to say in her email:
I am attaching a photo of me and my much loved Kindle. You may notice that I have applied a wood burl patterned skin to the device.
The wood burl patterned skin is cool, but this could cause problems with termites… Sorry I didn’t have to go there, but I did.
Next week I will be announcing the new drawing. If you participated last time, you’ll be getting an email from me making the announcement and explaining the rules. If you would like to get the email alert, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s headline is a quote from Brad Meltzer, author of numerous bestselling novels. Meltzer is one of the first authors credited with harnessing the power of the internet to sell books. He was interviewed in the New York Times recently for an article titled See the Web Site, Buy the Book. The article focuses on the growing importance on an author’s website in the publishing world. It seems not only are we judging a book by its cover, we’re also judging it by its website. This is something I talk about everyday with new and aspiring authors. I would take this one step further. It’s not just your website that sells a book, it’s your entire web presence. I do zero mainstream marking for my books. Everything is done through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. My website (rwridley.com) is just a front page that directs you to this blog when you click on the freaky picture of me. I probably should have it professionally redesigned, but I’m just using it as a brand marker right now. Eventually, I will dish out the dough to have some kid with far superior graphics skills than me make it even more awesome!
If you’re an author, click on the New York Times’ article. You may be surprised that most web designers are paid directly by the author. You’ll also be directed to watch a video companion piece to a book by Naomi Klein. The book and video are titled Shock Doctrine. The video is below for your convenience. It is seven minutes long. Normally, I advise against videos longer than two minutes, but this is the exception to that rule. It’s powerful, compelling, and professionally produced, and I dare say will move some viewers to purchase the book.
If you’re an author reading this, ask yourself one question, “Am I Barnum enough?”
BTW – side note: I prefer the one word incarnation of the word website. The New York Times apparently is still holding onto the two word ‘design.’
Busy doing edits today. I need to keep my nose down, and my mind sharp which means very little online activity today. To keep you entertained and informed, here’s a clip of Eric Idle talking about writing with the different members of Monty Python. Enjoy!
I’m not sure what’s wrong with Anderson Cooper in this video. Some say he’s drunk. Some say he’s exhausted. I think he could be having a stroke. The guy’s still pretty cool. Give him a break. He was probably up all night covering the inauguration.
This is an exciting Friday for me because I get to recommend a good book to you. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a rare gem in the young adult market because it can be appreciated by any fan of science fiction/fantasy, no matter the age of the reader. It is the story of a young girl who is thrust into a vicious, televised game of survival that pits her against a cast of other kids from around the country that once was the United States. The only way to win this game is to outlive the other contestants by any means necessary. The premise is a fresh take on the Richard Bachman book, The Running Man. Or if you prefer, think ancient Rome’s gladiators set in a horrific reality show every Roman is forced to watch. Suzanne Collins deserves the success Stephanie Meyer is experiencing with Twilight. Meyer’s series is good, but it leaves the young male reader out of the equation. It’s a romance novel that has cute vampires. Collins’ Hunger Games is told with a lot of grit and blood and guts. There’s a romance element to it, but not enough to turn us boys off. Beyond creating some really intriguing action scenes, Collins is a master in creating compelling characters you care about. I found myself with a lump in my throat a couple of times, and trying to man up while I held back a tear or two. Bravo Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games gets five out of five stars from me.
On a personal note, this book came at an interesting time for me. I’m writing a book from the point-of-view of a 15-year-old girl, and this story helped me get over something I was struggling with. I spent a lot of time trying to make my character sound like a teenage girl which was a mistake. This book taught me that it was more important to find the characters unique voice and stop force feeding stereotypes on her. Thank you Suzanne Collins. Once again, if you want to be a good writer, read a good book.
UPDATE: Just got word that Book 2 of the Hunger Games series is done and set for release on September 8, 2009. The title is Catching Fire. Here’s a link to a Publisher’s Weekly (has image of new cover)