February 28, 2011

Could It Be Any Clearer

Pearson, Inc is the parent company that owns Penguin and Pearson Education. They are the world leaders in trade and educational publishing, respectively. It also owns the Financial Times, Dorling Kindersley, and other ventures. Their 2010 numbers were just released. One point in particular is of relevance to people like you and me:

Last year [2010] almost 30% of all our revenues were for digital products (42% if you count those blended paper/digital programs). Our digital education platforms now serve almost 60 million students, up 43% from last year.

Let that soak in a little bit. The LARGEST publisher in the world made 30% (or 42% if you prefer) of its revenue from digital products. And the fact that they differentiate between digital and digital/print blend is HUGE. These aren't fudged numbers. Pure digital content made up nearly 1/3 of the revenue of an $8.7 billion year.

That's 2,610,000,000 dollars in digital revenue. 2.6 BILLION.

The digital age is here, my friends. Welcome to the future.

February 27, 2011

On the Outside

Has there ever been a series that you read and thought was okay, but you just didn't get why people are so fanatical about it? I'm that way with the Hunger Games trilogy. I see posts and you tube clips all over the net and everyone's so excited. I certainly don't want to spoil their fun or anything, but I wish I could participate. It started as a strong story, the second two books never matched the first, in my opinion.

It feels like there is a party going on and everyone was invited except for me. :)

February 22, 2011

One of the Two Books

Did you watch the HBO mini-series "The Pacific?" I don't think it was written as well as "Band of Brothers," but then it had the unfortunate luck to come out after that huge hit, so it had to make sure it was decidedly something else. The special features are damn cool and the show is good, just not as good as "Band of Brothers." I do appreciate that it focused in a large part on the battles that were relevant to the 1st Marines that haven't gotten a lot of attention before. We've all heard of Iwo Jima. You've probably heard of Okinawa and/or Guadalcanal. But who's heard of Puvuvu or Pelilau or Cape Gloucester?

The really cool thing is that the two main characters (at least the most main among the ensemble cast) are Robert Lecke and EB Sledge, both of whom wrote their memoirs, which were used to craft the series. Sledge broke the rules and took notes during combat (a no no since it might act as intelligence should he be killed or captured). He then worked up his memoir for his family to explain why they knew the man they knew. It was friends and colleagues that encouraged him to publish it. And after doing so, it's considered the foremost treatise on front-line combat (focusing on life and effect of fighting a war rather than just strategy and big picture stuff).

It's call WITH THE OLD BREED and it's pretty awesome. Sledge survives WWII, goes on to get a PHD and teach college biography. He retells his experiences with honesty but objectivity, bringing a scientist's observance to his own first-hand experiences.

While I am not a war buff, I think this is a good read for anyone who wants to truly understand what was sacrificed and what happened in the Pacific war.

February 18, 2011

Subscribe by Email

So after an incredibly verbose fall, the last couple months have been virtually silent in comparison. As I've mentioned before, I work in publishing. My managers finally acknowledged they weren't giving me enough work so I'm moving to a list1 that is changing its business strategy. Thus lots of meetings, lots of new work, and of course I'm still responsible for my old position until they hire someone new2.

While the work has been satisfying, it's made it hard to post here. It's also made it hard to keep up with other people's blogs (and commenting doesn't work so well on my smart phone, so I can't even do it on the train). I was griping the other day that the thing I miss most about LiveJournal is that it notifies you when someone replies to a comment you've made. I hate repeatedly checking the comments of a blog when my last comment remains the last one. I just want to know that someone has replied. Why don't you do that, Blogger?!?!

What's that? It does? D'OH! So next to the comment box, there's a link that says "Subscribe by Email." By default, this is turned off, but simply click it and you'll get an email any time someone responds after you (don't do this on very popular blogs or you'll get hundreds of emails and go insane). I always forget to do it because it's not included in the comment box and there isn't an option to turn it on as the default. Still, it's a habit I should get into. Commenting on a blog is okay, but I enjoy genuine conversation, a back and forth between participants3. At some point or another, you just stop checking to see if there's new

1 A list is like a genre in publishing. An editor and a project manager will have a list (or sometimes multiple lists) they call their own. In this case, I managed media content for Developmental Psychology (a big money maker, but the content is pretty much the same). I am moving over to Political Science, which has a much more diverse publishing set. It also publishes all its content at the same time, so that'll be a fun challenge.

2 And they haven't even posted the position yet. D'oh!

3 Who's old enough to remember the early chatrooms of the early intertubes? I spent many an hour my freshman year in Chathouse, marveling at this thing called the internet and the hot girl in New Jersey who liked me. ;)4

4 16 years later and we're still friends on Facebook. How do ya like them apples?

February 14, 2011

Vick--Vickie Vale! Vickie Vale!

When I was younger, I loved comic books. Loved them. My friend Jeremy introduced them to me at the beginning of high school and there began a brief obsession with the funnybooks. I won't say that I grew out of them, because that's condescending and inaccurate. There are still books I enjoy even though I don't buy comics any more (Atomic Robo is always the first book I recommend to people interested in seeing what a quality comic book is like).

In most comics, especially the mainstream ones written by an incredibly inbred cadre of writers (meaning that they just move from book to book without adding new blood, not that they themselves are actually inbred), too much of it is written to appeal to the teenage mindset. When Batwoman was introduced as the new main character of Detective Comics, the fact that she was a lesbian was addressed in a way that not only made me less sympathetic to the character (she blamed the victim card to win an argument in her own internal monologue!) but pulled me out of the story because she's unlike any real-life lesbian I know.

More over, I find 22 pages limiting to tell a story, especially when the pacing needs to be kept up and the story needs to be refreshed so that everything feels new (it's hard to get new readers into a comic that numbers in the 600s).

I bring this up not because today's post is about comics (though obviously it is now), but because I want you to understand why I don't like Tim Burton's rendition of Batman. I needed to preface all that because Burton is one of those people (like Gaiman) that has a fanatical fan base. Say you don't like Tim Burton's work and people freak out. I like some movies (Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish, etc.) but his Batman incarnations are particularly frustrating. Sure everyone likes the first one, but they like it because it so perfectly encapsulated the '80s, not because it was a good Batman flick. Other than the selection of Michael Keaton as Batman (who looked just like the comic's Bruce Wayne at the time), I just don't care for it (Kevin Smith's comment that Tim told him he had never read a comic book of any kind was particularly telling).

Now, after all that backstory, the reason why I bring this all up, is that because when I'm browsing Twitter or some other online gathering place and I see a picture of a particularly attractive woman, I think to myself "Stop the press! Who is this?" and stop scrolling.

I did not realize I was doing it until I caught myself doing it this weekend on two different occasions. I don't blame the movie so much as I blame the first season of Chuck which included that joke and is a thousand times better than Tim Burton's Batman movies.

(This post had no footnotes in them because Nate Wilson used them all in his blog post today.)

February 11, 2011

Rewriting is HARD!

I revise. I rarely rewrite. In fact, the only thing I've tried to rewrite is 7TH SACRIFICE and I scrapped the entire incomplete manuscript, so that should almost be called writing, as there isn't much "re" involved.

Coming on a year ago, I finished the manuscript for WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING. I got feedback from an agent who said he would have preferred the story if Bastin and not Nashau had been the main character. This was similar to feedback Elizabeth Poole gave me. But I didn't want to rewrite with Bastin as the main character. Bastin's story's been told before. Nashau's story hadn't. So I tabled that feedback and went on with my other works.

Then THE TRIAD SOCIETY was a near miss. Some of the feedback was there was a particular section that seemed to ramble. In truth, that section had been a shout out to WANTED. The stories are in the same world even though they're not in the same kingdom or with the same characters. I wanted to show the world evolving based on the impact of the stories. Now, I could cut this section, but there are other parts in that section that play directly to the ending (which I don't think the agent ever got to), so I'm averse to cutting it for the moment.

My plan had been, and why I kept that section in there, was once the agent said she wanted to rep TRIAD, that I had another story in that setting that would do well to come out first (yeah, I know publishing doesn't always work that way, but it couldn't hurt to try!). She passed on TRIAD, though, and this was devastating1. I didn't quite come to terms with getting so close and coming up short like I usually do (granted, I don't think I've ever been that close). So I begin scheming, as hobbits are wont to do. If I can't use TRIAD to sell WANTED, maybe I can use WANTED to sell TRIAD2.

I go back and ponder--yet again--what WANTED would be like with Bastin as the main character. But I don't just ponder, I start rewriting it. I delete the first four chapters and look at the story anew.


Holy crap, this is better.


Holy crap, this is so much better. So I began the rewrite. WANTED wasn't bad before. But in hindsight, it had some water weight to shed. It's the difference between being chubby and being svelt. I've cut 21,000 words so far (actually more than that, but I've written a few thousand new words). My final word count will drop from 150k to something more around 125k maybe 130k. While the reduced word count has diminished the world building slightly, it's a much tighter story in all.

BUT (you knew there would be a but, right?), REWRITING IS HARD! Sure revision is hard, but rewriting is HARD. You have to approach characters fresh. They might not be the people they were before. You need to remember to incorporate the details that your brain is telling you you've already included. You need to not repeat yourself, keep the new plot straight compared to the old plot (chapter 32 is now chapter 12, that impacts everything in between). ANNNND, you have to come to terms with you're writing a first draft of a completed manuscript. How hard is that? You're going to be upset when the stuff needs more polish and you're all like, but I already finished this damn book. It shouldn't be sucking.

But it does suck my friend, because rewriting is hard. Breathe, count to 10, and put your nose to the grindstone. In the end you'll be a noseless author with a rewritten manuscript and a bloody grindstone.

1 Whenever you're sad after a rejection others tell you that it happens to everyone and to keep on going. This is absolutely true in every sense. BUT, do not think that does not mean you're not permitted to feel down. Absolutely feel down. It's called disappointment for a reason. But you're only allowed so much time to feel down. After that, either start writing or start scheming. I recommend the former.

2 Look, remember that part you thought was rambling? Make sense now?3 Wheeeee!!!!

3 It would have made sense before if you had finished the damn manuscript. *pout*4

4 Stop pouting and acting like a child. Go write your fucking book.

February 9, 2011

Reading is Fundamentals

Today's post is written on my phone while I take the late train into work. Will be busy as soon as I sit down, so it's now or never.

Someone commented on a blog I read how the blogger must feel so proud for buying books as gifts. A coworker of mine only reads classics because she likes feeling superior to people who don't. I don't get these mindsets. The latter is just dumb, mofe telling of her character more than anything, but the former... I own a lot of books. All readers do. I cannot think of a single book I own that would make me proud.

Reading is one of many media people use for entertainment and learning. I don't get the weight people put on it as the most important thing EVAR! I like movies and plays and music too.

February 6, 2011

Bordering on the Ridiculous

Sara Megibow posted recently that she "did her part to help Borders" by buying a book there. And all I can think is, you either screwed the publisher or screwed the author by buying there. If Borders doesn't pay for the books it's selling, someone has to take the loss. Either the publisher will take that hit, or they won't count is as a sale and the author will take the hit or maybe they'll both share a little bit in the screwage. Either way, the only way they get paid is if Borders recovers and Borders isn't going to recover.

The "doing her part" thing is what bothers me. All of a sudden there's some kind of community obligation to save Borders from itself. And yes, Borders brought this on itself. It used to be dominant over Barnes & Noble and while sure Amazon dramatically upended the industry, it could just as well be Barnes & Noble teetering on bankruptcy while Borders becomes the last brick and mortar mega-bookstore. Bad management, poor planning and implementation, bad business. And for as frequently as agents remind authors that writing is a business, that fact never seems to apply to bookstores. Borders is a business and it failed. Yes it represented the third-largest book seller in the industry (not represents like some are still saying--if it's not paying publishers, it's the largest book thief in the industry).

Borders does not have such loyal clientele that if it goes out of business, they'll quit reading. This isn't something we need to do to save the industry. It represents a marked difference in methodology with its competitors, one that I've liked as a customer. But it is simply incapable of functioning as a business, so that doesn't matter. To buy at Borders now is to effectively buy a pirated copy of the book.

I can't help think of Amtrak. Not a lot of you have been on an Amtrak train. That's why the government gives them money every year to stay in business. They don't draw customers. Amtrak tickets are the same or more expensive than flying and the trip time is five times as long. We "save" Amtrak every year because the only companies interested in buying it are European and we couldn't have that. Better to throw millions of dollars to a company that doesn't know how to function in its own business than to let Europeans try and make a profit on American soil.

While I am liberal in most of my political persuasions, this is one instance where the free market is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. Borders has failed as a company. It will now go out of business and its marketshare will be taken by those capable enough to do so. This isn't a cause for writers and industry insiders to rally around. There is no noble cause here. They weren't the victim of monopolization or unfair government pressures. They were a business that failed to do what it set out to do.

It's time we turn our attention to those companies that are still surviving. You want to do your part, buy a book from a store that actually pays the people that make the book.

This has to have been told somewhere

Okay those of you who read sci fi, tell me the name of this book. There's no way this hasn't been written before. It's so fundamentally classic that I'm surprised I've given it a second thought.

Idea for a new story came to me on Friday (third of the week, actually, but I didn't write the other two down because they didn't seem like they had enough to flesh out to a full story). This one is about a person who uncovers a vast conspiracy. Robots are infiltrating humanity. What he sees as familiar coworkers are actually just cyborgs. When one malfunctions, he learns the truth and the chase is on. The robots are coming for him and he has to flee and find others who know the truth so he can save humanity!

Pretty standard stuff, yeah? In the end he discovers that they robots aren't coming after him to silence him but because he's a malfunctioning robot himself. In fact, there are no humans left. They died off a long time ago. He and those others he meets that "know the truth" are in fact all malfunctioning.

So there's no way someone else hasn't written this story. I don't read a lot of sci fi (I stick more to fantasy), so someone tell me the name of this novel so I don't invest the time to right it only to find out it's a novel by John Scalzi or something.

February 2, 2011

NPH Poll

Despite all the snow, I have been wicked busy at work. I have a number of half-finished posts, none of which I am in the mood to finish now. Instead...A POLL!

Okay, not with the regular poll widget because it messes with my site design. Really, I should have said...A QUESTION! Or...A PROMPT!


Dr. Horrible - "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"

Steve the Monkey - "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

NPH - "Harold Kumar Go to White Castle"

Barney - "How I Met Your Mother"

Doogie Howser - "Doogie Howser, M.D."