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China – no longer an emerging market

May 28th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Publishing & Technology: China – no longer an emerging market
Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS
This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be looking at China in an effort to debunk some persistent myths about the viability of licensing U.S. titles for Chinese translation while unpacking a few of the items reported by Jim Millot in his Publisher’s Weekly article China at BEA 2015: China Has Ambitious Plans for BEA. To read his article in its entirety please click here.
When I first set out to establish myself in selling rights for foreign translation, I was warned away from several markets. I was told that certain countries either weren’t “worth my time” or had such rampant ongoing issues that licensing translation rights in such markets was foolish in many cases. China was one such market.
I found these assertions to be overly simplified, lacking in the nuance afforded by real experience, and unfortunate in a variety of ways that we don’t have the room to go into here.
I have not been in the business long enough to remember the days before China acceded to the Berne Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, and the WIPO Copyright Treaty. I cannot say if the sentiments I encountered when I first entered the rights business were holdovers from two decades earlier. Certainly the 2009 formal complaint lodged by the U.S. with the WTO regarding China’s failure to enforce copyright (primarily driven by issues with DVD piracy) didn’t do much to help general feelings in our industry about doing business with Chinese publishers. But if assertions made in a variety of PW articles hold true, that “sales through physical stores (in China) rebounded and online sales continued to rise” in 2014, and “China’s E-book market is robust and growing,” and that “U.S. books draw lots of interest” from Chinese publishers, we may be seeing the transition of the Chinese market from “emerging” to “robust.”
Suffice it to say that establishing licensing agreements in China, like many more established translation markets, can be well worth the effort, provided that you are working with established and trustworthy partners. Establishing those partnerships may require working with an agent or co-agent you can trust.

Publishing & Technology: FBP and the Potential Resurrection of the Independent Book Seller

May 21st, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

brt-headshotBrian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be examining the plight of the independent bookseller, reminiscing about indie bookstores long since gone, and trying to find some hope for the future. For an in-depth examination of the global history, contemporary iterations, and theory and practice of fixed book pricing check out For What It’s Worth: Fixed Book Price in Foreign Book Markets by Moe Nakayama on the Publishing Trends website.

If you knew me better, you’d know that I make no secret of my love for independent bookstores. I live in Portland, Oregon, home to Powell’s Books, Reading Frenzy, Mother Foucault’s, and a great many other excellent neighborhood and specialty bookstores. I make pilgrimages to bookstores of note whenever I’m in the cities that support them. And. . .I also, somewhat frequently, buy books online from Amazon. I’d prefer not to, but there are times when my schedule can’t argue with convenience and times when my wallet can’t argue with 50% off (and sometimes a great deal more – I’m a bit of a cookbook junkie). But I never feel good about choosing to buy discounted books over the internet because I know that if you can’t get people like me (people who claim to love independent bookstores) to support them, then they are doomed to extinction.

This is not news: in the years since the dawning of the Information Age the only conventional retail model to suffer greater financial losses than the independent bookstore is the video rental store (record stores may be in a dead heat for second-worst-off with independent booksellers, but for the sake of this post let’s set the widely reported suffering of the music industry aside – if for no other reason than the fact that live performance revenues and the hipster return to vinyl have at least done something to staunch a bit of bleeding). While I was still with Ooligan Press, I wrote a rather pithy blog post about the fate of independent bookstores and what they needed to do to pull themselves out of the fire and back into the frying pan. If you enjoy sarcasm, feel free to click here. It was my assertion in that post that the booksellers themselves were their own worst enemy and that the best thing they could do to insure their survival was to concentrate on the experiential aspects of their retail model, driving customer satisfaction in a hands-on way that digital retailers could not hope to match.

The first independent bookstore I ever patronized, Twenty-Third Avenue Books here in Portland, despite the rising affluence of its neighborhood location, permanently closed its doors in 2009 (for an article devoted to the occasion of its demise and its owner’s subsequent homelessness, click here. In years past, I would’ve blamed its failure on the confluence of market forces and lack of willingness/ability to change. Now, thanks to articles like the one I mention at the top of this post, I have a more nuanced understanding of the plight of traditional booksellers. I am no economist. I do not have the level of understanding required to know that something like legally mandated or agreed upon fixed book pricing would do much to save the independent bookstores that I love. I do know that it would give me a additional reasons to force myself out of the house and into area family-owned businesses to purchase all of my reading material.

2015 Foreign Rights Trends & Market Roundup

May 14th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Publishing & Technology: 2015 Foreign Rights Trends & Market Round-up

BRT-Headshot Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be highlighting some of the developments and trends in foreign rights as reported by the Publishing Perspectives team of the Frankfurt Book Fair in their 2015 Global Perspectives on Book Rights and Licensing white paper. For the full white paper click follow the link on this page.
“Translation can be your biggest market.”

According to Samar Hammam of London-based Rocking Chair Books a book that might sell three to ten thousand copies domestically could conceivably sell ten times that amount in a single overseas market. Furthermore, according to another industry source “authors are achieving cult status” in foreign countries.

The majority of translation deals are still made face-to-face despite the proliferation of digital listing services.

Although many of the big houses have converted their internal systems to digital, or at least are in the middle of transitioning, lack of industry-wide definitions about rights, contracts, and royalties, among other logistical concerns, continues to impede the drive to a true digital marketplace for foreign rights and licensing.

Market Round-up:

Asia:
Moving from fiction “toward nonfiction and children’s books…especially in China”

Europe:
Russia, Greece, Italy, and Spain, as well as The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries remain cautious. France and Germany “remain strong,” while the Polish and Czech markets are growing.

Reports from Brazil are mixed, while the remainder of Latin America has begun to garner special attention as the “ongoing publishing crisis in Spain” has driven many agents and rights directors to “split rights among various Spanish-language territories and regions.”

Digital Publishing Trends and Opportunities

April 29th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Publishing & Technology: Digital Publishing Trends and Opportunities

brt-headshotBrian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS
This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about three of the trends still effecting the ongoing evolution of digital publishing as reported by industry analyst Thad McIlroy of The Future of Publishing in December of last year in a white paper commissioned by Digital Book World. For the full white paper click here.

Ebook formatting is still a work in progress. The existing formats worked just fine for text-only books but are still sadly lacking both for illustrated books and for interactive books.

This continues to be a source of frustration to many in the publishing business. While ebook formatting for text-only is so simple that a trained middle schooler should have little to no trouble with it, adding images continues to be beyond approachable from a generalist’s perspective, and when digital audio, animation, or interactive content is thrown into the mix, you might as well start shopping for app developers. It remains to be seen if interactive text is a viable opportunity for the publishing industry, and with the bar to entry so high it may remain to be seen for some time yet.

Subscription models are much in vogue these days, although their business model remains unproven.

If publishers can get consumers to go along with discounted bundling within series and imprints, than subscription-based models as viable additional revenue streams don’t seem to be too far out in the realm of fantasy. But, if my experience running a literary magazine in the digital age taught me anything, it’s that subscription-based models are increasingly less attractive from a consumer’s perspective.

Ebook pricing is only starting to be understood, with publishers trying to find the right balance between maximizing unit sales and maximizing profitability.

If you feel like you have no real handle on how to effectively leverage a pricing strategy for e-books you are not alone. The entire industry is continuing to struggle to understand how price points affect both online purchasing behavior and the purchase of digital content. For an in-depth analysis of contemporary pricing strategies for book sales, I recommend Todd Sattersten’s 2011 title (that he continually updates),

How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 5, The Bait and Switch Ending

April 29th, 2015 | Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

brick green no smile b:wI’m nearing the end of my series on how to write great endings, and am talking briefly today about one of the most frustrating types of endings to read, for an agent, editor, or any other reader, the “bait and switch” ending, particularly in terms of the tone of a story.

I’ve talked several times throughout this series about the importance of being fair to your reader in your endings– that you satisfy their sense of justice, that you’ve laid some groundwork for any surprises, etc.– yet I’m constantly surprised by the number of manuscripts I read that end in a way that is completely dissimilar to the tone/story universe/set of expectations the author has spent the entire preceding manuscript establishing. If you’ve spent 200 pages developing a nice, sweet, wholesome romance, don’t try to get all depressing and cynical at the end. If your comedic cozy mystery stayed on mostly “safe” ground for the first 3/4ths of the book, don’t turn it into a chilling, violent crime novel at the end. If you spent the majority of a book developing deeper themes and a more literary voice, don’t just slap a conventional romance ending onto it and call it a day.

I want a book to end with the same “flavor” that compelled me to follow the story through to completion. It’s as if someone ordered a mint-chocolate-chip ice cream cone but the soda jerk decided to put a dollop of lemon sorbet at the bottom– even if the lemon sorbet is good, it’s not what the customer was expecting, and it’s not going to compare favorably to the mint-chocolate-chip, coming as it does when they’re not expecting it and have their mouth all set for something completely different.

There are a number of reasons this happens, even to experienced authors. First, writing is largely a solitary profession. Even if you have a critique partner/group to bounce ideas off of or solicit feedback from on certain scenes, the majority of your writing is done in a vacuum, with no eyes but your own seeing your work until it’s done, and no voices but yours chiming in to offer perspective. This solitude can lead to a bit of tunnel-vision where your story is concerned– after living up close and personal with your story and characters for so long, it’s no wonder that you can lose track of the big-picture arc of your story, especially if you’re the type of writer who prefers to let the story develop organically (i.e., “see where the characters take you,”) as you write rather than plot it out in detail at the beginning of the process. As I’ve said before, there is nothing wrong with this process, but you do have to stay true in the ending to the rules you made/tone you set throughout the rest of the book, otherwise your reader is going to feel cheated when the ending is dramatically different from what they had every reason to expect based on the first 9/10ths of the book. (And no, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have surprises at the end, or that your ending has to be predictable, but readers who pick up a thriller don’t want to read 100,000 words to get to a cozy mystery ending.)

Another reason authors can sometimes struggle with a tone change at the very end of a book is that they’re trying to make their book fit into a segment of the market it doesn’t really fit into, usually in the interest of making the book more commercial or more “timely.” Hey, someone dies at the end of The Fault in Our Stars and that book was a huge success; if I slap a sad ending on my otherwise lighthearted YA, it might sell! This sounds silly, but I’ve definitely seen this phenomenon in my inbox as different trends or themes spend time in the market spotlight and authors attempt to tweak their manuscripts to follow a trend, especially by messing with the endings. It’s a pretty well-established rule that you shouldn’t try to tailor your writing to fit the current trends– trends come and go, and publishers acquire so far out that a trend that’s hot right now might be dead and buried in a year when your book would be coming out, so you’re always better off staying true to your voice and your story and trusting that editors (and, eventually, readers) will appreciate your work for what it is rather than for the mold it fits into.

In the end (pun intended), you want to be true to the story you have to tell, but you also want to be sure that you’ve presented it in such a way that the tone of the ending matches the tone you’ve been writing and rules you’ve been playing by for the majority of the book.

Have you ever read a book in which it felt like the author pulled a “bait and switch” at the end? Are there any other types of disappointing/bad endings I should address before I wrap up the series? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Publishing & Technology

April 22nd, 2015 | Uncategorized | 40 Comments

The Persistent Cultural Need for Publishersbrt-headshot

 

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

 

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about how the ongoing expansion of independent (or self-) publishing is driving the need for publishers, now more than ever.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend a talk given by Smashword’s founder Mark Coker at Portland State University. I say “good fortune” not because I found the argument he presented to be anything short of a self-serving apologist’s attack on traditional publishing and the culture of gate-keeping that discouraged Mr. Coker (by his own acknowledgement) and many millions of other aspiring authors in their attempts to gain the industry’s seal of approval. I say “good fortune” because his presentation infuriated me to such a point that I was forced to stay with many of the uneasy thoughts I’d attempted to hold at bay for some time regarding the rebranding of self-publishing as “independent publishing” by those who would profit from the aspirations of the aforementioned millions. The general gist of his talk, I’m paraphrasing Mr. Coker here, is that it has been the publishers who have been holding writers back for all these years, trampling the aspirations of millions of deserving authors in the name of abstractions such as a manuscript’s marketability and the potential for a return on the investment it would take to bring any manuscript to publication.

Don’t misunderstand me. The democratization of publishing has some inherent good in it. As it levels the playing field for authors from groups that have been egregiously underrepresented in traditional publishing, it is a good thing. As it provides writers whose work doesn’t fit established, “salable” molds (the novella author, the poet, and, increasingly, the writer of short fiction) with a potential additional way to bring their work to market, it is a very good thing. That said, the expansion of self-publishing has removed many of the filters between audience and writer and I would argue that this has negative effects on the quality of writing in general, the practice of reading throughout our society, and the foundation of our culture as a whole. Setting aside the obvious benefits of professional editing and design, as they can be purchased by the independent author (though they rarely seem to be), it strikes me that there are a couple of glaring cultural issues with the rise in self-publishing:

First, if digital bookselling and distribution continues to take up more and more overall market share in the industry, while simultaneously providing the nigh-singular commercial avenue for independent authors to distribute their work, the prospect that any author will be read seems less and less likely as all but the best-selling titles get pushed farther and farther into the digital background.

Second, without some of the gatekeeping functions of the traditional publishing apparatus in place the general overall quality of our cultural production of text seems to be in jeopardy. If we level the playing field completely and then load it with everyone who wants to participate, regardless of their skill or potential, how are we to identify the writers that deserve our attention?

As we get further and further away from the traditional publishing, distribution, bookselling model we will need imprints and publishers that we can trust to deliver books worth purchasing, worth reading.

Publishing & Technology

April 8th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Narrative-Based Mobile Games: Inconceivable?

brt-headshotBrian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology, we’ll be using the recent ios release of Gameblend Studio’s The Princess Bride: The Official Game as a jumping off point to discuss the adaptation of books and stories for mobile games.

Earlier this year the industry newsletter newser.com reported on the release of the $20 flash-animated game and its merits as an entertainment. Let me pause here to say that I have not downloaded the game. I do not have any interest in it beyond its value as another example of the blurring of the boundaries between story and game through the integration of narrative elements from an existing work of fiction into new and emerging technologies.

From my perspective, the adapting of written works to new technological modes of delivery is primarily interesting as it represents a potential revenue stream for those of us that make a living from the written word. But how much of that $20 price tag for the game will eventually end up in the William Goldman’s pocket? I am not privy to the details of Goldman’s initial publishing contract for the book, nor of any renegotiations of that contract in light of technological developments since 1987. But, if I had to wager, I would probably put my money on his royalty for the mobile game being somewhere between nothing and negligible.

While the potential for developing written works for mobile games may hold some promise as a side stream of income for writers already working in more traditional story modes, it remains to be seen if authors may ever be able to rely on it as a significant portion of their living. The practice is still infrequent and the potential of any monetary value to rights holders is far from decided. That said, if I were representing a work of fiction (or to some extent, non-fiction) that had potential for being adapted for new transmedia productions across multiple digital channels, I would make absolutely sure that any deal brokered provided for the protection of my author’s rights.

How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 2, The Art of Denouement

April 1st, 2015 | The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on writing great endings. This week, I’ll be talking about a misunderstood but vital part of any story, the denouement.

The Google dictionary definition of “denouement” is “the final part of a narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” “Denouement” is one of those literary words that most of us learned somewhere in high school or college English classes and then filed away along with “synecdoche” and “antithesis” to be trotted out when we need to sound smart, but whereas you could probably write a pretty great novel without being able to identify the areas where you used antithesis, it’s REALLY hard to end a book well without having more than a dictionary understanding of the functions of a denouement.

Think of the denouement as “the beginning of the end.” If you’re plotting the arc of a story or plot, the denouement appears right after the climax and generally encompasses everything else taking place between the climax and the end of the story. Let’s start by looking at the jobs a denouement needs to do:

  • Resolve the events of the climax. If the climax occurs when Slim pulls Sue off the railroad tracks seconds before the train thunders by, we don’t have to see every second of what happens next, but we would eventually like to know how they made it back to town after Slim’s horse ran off, how Salty Sam was finally apprehended, and whether or not Slim’s sidekick died of his rattlesnake bite. The actual top-of-the-tension moment is when Sue and Slim declare their love seconds before they might be smushed by the train, but these other events were all pieces of the climactic scene and the scenes leading directly up to it, and the reader wants to know how they turned out, even if it’s in a paragraph of narrative at the beginning of the next chapter rather than in five more scenes showing the aftermath/resolution of each. (And actually, it’s usually better to resolve the events of the climax more quickly than not, but we’ll talk more about anticlimactic endings next week.)
  • Solve mysteries/answer unanswered questions. Think about the end of an Agatha Christie novel, when Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple are explaining how they figured out the identity of the killer. They go through each of the clues/mysteries involved in the crime and helpfully point out which were red herrings, which could be explained by the hitherto unsuspected romantic sub-plot, and which actually point to the killer. While most novels won’t end with a nice tidy monologue listing mysteries and their solutions, these answers all still need to find their way into the denouement, otherwise the reader feels gypped and the author comes across as either flaky or untrustworthy.
  • Wrap up your subplots/follow through on your promises. Is there anything more frustrating than getting to know some fun minor character or glimpsing an interesting subplot and then never hearing from them again? It’s like the old rule about the rifle– if you tell the reader there’s a rifle hanging on the wall in chapter 1, somebody better fire it by the end of the book (there are various versions of this quote having to do with both novel-writing and playwriting, and it has been attributed to Chekov, thought not 100% confirmed). Don’t spend words to bring in minor characters’ conflicts or spend the whole book talking about the upcoming town carnival without giving the reader some resolution for those conflicts, or letting them experience a bit of the carnival before the book is over, even if it’s just a mention in passing or a single scene at the end of the book.

  • Establish your main characters’ immediate future. The extent to which you need to do this varies widely depending on the genre you’re writing, but no book should end with the main character being dangled off a cliff by his ankles. In a romance, the reader wants to know that a relationship finally has staying power (we’ve probably seen them break up at least twice over the course of the novel, after all, so we’re a little skeptical). We don’t need to find out an exact wedding date or how many kids they’re going to have, but a proposal or a reference to whose family they’re going to spend Christmas with or a longtime commitment-phobe giving her boyfriend a key to her apartment gives us some closure and assures us that it really will be “happily ever after.” In a thriller, the reader wants to know whether the main character changed his mind about leaving the CIA or what the lawyer is going to do now that she’s been fired from her elite law firm for standing up for the little guy. Again, we don’t need to follow the main character’s every move for the next five years, but some clue about the direction their life is taking, or even just assurance that the main character is happy even if her future is a bit unsettled is important to the reader’s sense of whether or not a complete story has been told. In books in a series telling a larger story, we still need to get to a somewhat “safe” stopping point for the main characters and have reached resolution for some of the story arcs, even if there is unresolved tension and continuing danger, e.g., the end of The Hunger Games, after Katniss has survived the games but realizes that there is more trouble and danger coming for her family and her district.

So there you have some of the major roles of the denouement. Authors who skimp on resolution at the end of their books risk alienating readers who feel cheated out of the full story, especially if the author dangled “bait” in the form of subplots, mysteries, and upcoming events throughout the book.

Now, as I cautioned several times in today’s post, one of the biggest dangers in writing your denouement is that your narrative can start to drag as you dump all kinds of info and resolution at the end of the book, so before you go too far down the Miss-Marple-monologue path, make sure you come back next week when I talk about how to make strong choices in your denouement that allow the energy of the narrative to remain intact while satisfying the reader’s need for resolution.

What else do you expect a denouement to provide? Have you ever been frustrated by unanswered questions or dropped plot threads after finishing a book? I’d love to hear your examples. Thanks for reading!

How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 1, The Importance of Endings

March 25th, 2015 | Books, The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

brick green no smile b:wI’m starting a new series today, one that will last until I run out of things to say on the topic or until I get bored, whichever comes first. I’ve received several ending-related questions over the past few weeks as well as been disappointed by the endings of several otherwise-good submissions I’ve read lately, so I thought we’d spend a few weeks talking about how to end a novel as effectively as you began it.

There are a whole lot of resources out there to help you craft a dynamite beginning of a novel– plenty of “first five chapters” workshops, lots of conversation on the importance of a great opening sentence, a bunch of opinions on how soon in a book the action needs to kick off– but not as much attention paid to how to END a novel well. It makes sense; the beginning is what makes someone decide whether or not to keep reading, and therefore gets most of the responsibility for selling a book to an agent, editor, or reader, but too often, all this emphasis on the beginning of a novel leads to some neglected or rough endings by comparison, and endings are what make someone decide whether or not to look for another book from that author. If you’ve managed to entice a reader into picking up your book and making it all the way through, you want them to stick around longer than just that one book. This week, we’ll talk about how the end of a story and the end of a book are (or should be) connected, as well as preview some of the topics we’ll address over the next few weeks.

“When is a book done?” “When is a story over?” These questions came in separately, and while they’re asking about two different things, the answers are related. A complete story has been told when the major conflict has come to a head (climax) and the events of the plot and sub-plot have been resolved in the aftermath of the climax (denouement). A book is done (or should be done) when the story has been told. The majority of problems I have with endings can be traced to a failure on the part of the author to either A) finish the story satisfactorily before ending the book, or B) end the book when the story is over.

Let’s look at problem A first– failure to finish the story to the reader’s satisfaction. Obviously, “reader satisfaction” is a subjective quality, and you can always find a reader who will want more details or more resolution than whatever you’ve given them, but for the most part, readers expect that the major conflict will be resolved (or at least ONE major conflict will be resolved or brought to a stopping point, in the case of individual books in a series), loose ends related to subplots or secondary characters will be tied up, and some lingering questions will at least be addressed, if not answered. When an author loses track of a subplot, or introduces a secondary character and a problem or scenario and then never brings it up again, the reader is left feeling cheated, and justifiably so.

That’s not to say that everything has to be sewn up tidily at the end of a book– unanswered questions, relationships in limbo, and continuing conflict are all parts of life and therefore are legitimate choices for inclusion in fiction, but there has to be some kind of resolution (a “story” is defined at its most basic, after all, as having a beginning, middle and end), and  the reader does have to be left with the sense that the author is still in control of his universe and is fully aware of the lack of resolution rather than feeling like the author has been stringing them along and dumped them in the middle of nowhere without a map, or worse still, that the author has forgotten about the plot holes, unsolved mysteries, and unfinished subplots. The former feels like a con on the part of the author, and the latter like bad craftsmanship.

Problem B is less frustrating, but almost more damaging to the reader’s perception of your book. Psychology 101 teaches that people’s memory/impressions are tied most strongly to primacy and recency– in other words, the things that stick with us the most from a study session or a conversation or a movie or a book are the first things we see or hear, and the last, or most recent, things we see or hear. There could be a lot of good stuff in the middle, and we might enjoy it while we’re reading/watching/studying, but that middle content just doesn’t stick with us like first and last impressions. Need proof? Think about someone you see on a regular basis, such as a coworker or a teacher or a pastor. You can probably recall the first time you saw or met that person, or at least one of your earliest interactions with them– where it took place, maybe who else was around, perhaps even some aspects of their appearance, such as a different hair color or cut– and you can probably recall what your last conversation/interaction with them was about and where it took place, or even what they were wearing the last time you saw them, but you probably can’t pin down a whole lot of specific outfits or conversations or sermon topics from the time between when you first and last saw or heard them. If you’ve ever had a falling-out with a friend, you know that your perception of that person is colored by your most recent interaction– even if you had five great years of friendship with them, if it ended badly, with an ugly confrontation or hurt feelings, that’s going to be how you remember that person.

What this means for authors is that, even if a reader loved the beginning of your book enough to keep reading, and even if you do a great job of building tension and they really enjoy reading the middle, that enthusiasm will be tempered with apathy if the ending leaves them cold– you want them to remember feeling excitement and satisfaction at the end of the book, not just pleasant interest, so you want to end the book while the reader is still basking in the emotional high of the climax rather than giving them time to come back down to neutral, emotionally, while you drag out the book for four more chapters. This causes the reader’s last impression of your book to be more tame or more forgettable than it could have been had the book ended at a point closer to the emotional high point.

I’ll be talking more about how to avoid anticlimax while still satisfying the reader’s need for resolution after the climax in the coming weeks. Next week, I’ll be talking more about denouement and how to give readers the resolution they expect without letting the momentum of your story peter out. If you have any ending-related questions or issues you’d like me to address in this series, let me know in the comments! As always, thanks for reading. 

 

Using your Writing Group to Promote Literacy (a guest blog)

March 13th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I never have trouble getting up before my alarm rings on a Saturday morning. For one, I’m looking forward to my weekly blog, SATURDAISIES, to go live. And second, it’s time to get together with my writing group, The Flying M-Inklings.

Let’s do confessions, shall we?

If I ever walked into our beloved coffee shop, The Flying M, and some oblivious and under-formed new guy was sitting at our M-Inkling table, I would probably commit a crime.Writing Group

(I’m not proud of it.)

But I’m kinda like the guy who walks into church on a Sunday morning to find that someone is sitting in his pew? Some oblivious and under-informed new guy and his wife – with four or five rugrats in tow? And the guy whose pew has been hijacked has to get his heart right with the Lord again because instead of being gracious and welcoming this new family into the church, all he really wants to do is clock him with a candle holder?

I would need a Divine intervention to stop me before somebody had to call the po-po… just sayin’.

Brilliance happens around our table. It’s where we M-Inklings make our plans and dream our dreams. It’s where we laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It’s where we write. I have christened that table, and it is ours. There’s no metaphor there – when we sneaked in a bottle of champagne to celebrate our one-year anniversary together, I popped the lid off of that sucker and the bubbly cascaded all over the table, the chairs, the floor, my lap… marking that sacred place. Ever since then, the Flying M-Inklings have made it a point to leave our mark wherever we go.

(There’s your metaphor.)

Your writing group should leave a mark on this planet. If your group has not considered how to promote literacy in your community and get your name out there, here are some suggestions.Flying M

 

  • First and foremost, THINK BIG! Ideas become things. Synergy fuels your collective creativity. The possibilities are endless, so go fearlessly into your world and invest in people. The rewards are phenomenal – you win as a writer in tandem with the other members of your group, and your community benefits as well. You will change lives – that’s not hyperbole – that’s a fact.

 

  • Build an online presence. You know your group needs a website, right? Don’t even pray about this – it’s a no-brainer. If you have caught the M-Inkling vision of becoming greater than the sum of your parts and your group becomes an entity all its own, then all your efforts deserve an online presence. On our website, we all post excerpts of our writing along with any and all of our events, but we also provide writing tips for writers everywhere. We share our experiences as we journey toward being published and the strategies we’ve used to market our products and self-promote and how we continually hone this craft we love so much. We don’t do everything right, and we’re glad to share those stories too. Learn from our mistakes. Be inspired by our struggles and our victories. Take what you can from us and give us helpful hints as well. We’d love to partner with other writing groups and build stronger networks. And we are pretty darn friendly.

 

  • Use your writing group to promote literacy. Four out of our seven have worked in the education industry, and three of us still do. Obviously, we are going to have opportunities to serve in this arena.

Nic is very involved with the Scholastic Writing/Art Contest. This is an amazing organization who gives young writers the opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, provides college scholarships. The first thing Nic had the M-Inklings do is stuff envelopes at his house to promote the event. Then we spent one of our Saturdays jurying students’ submissions for the state of Idaho. We were so encouraged by these young writers. Their work was amazing, and we were blown away by their talent. See how happy we are? Working together to help young writers would put a smile on your face too!

 

Katie is organizing a mobile book drive this summer called, The Lunch Bunch Book Club. She has partnered with the Oasis Summer Feeding Program, an organization that feeds children from low-income families in the summer months. The M-Inklings are collecting books right now for children ages 3 – 11, and we will be loaded up her son’s Ford F-150 (unless we can get a truck or RV dealer here in town to partner with us, which I’ll bet we could) and take this mobile library out to these neighborhood children.

 

Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to connect with people in your area. Right now Colby is currently mentoring a young writer for his senior project. Additionally, both he and Shannon are also looking into coming to the school where Nic and Daisy work to talk to our students about blogging and writing careers. Volunteer to work with agencies who share a common vision to promote reading and writing. Always be ready to jump in and make that difference everyone says they want to make. Do it.

 

  • Become known in the community.

 

We were pretty thrilled last November to host a write-in at the Flying M for NaNoWriMo. As it turns out, Colby knows a gal who was part of the NaNo effort here in the Treasure Valley, and she put the word out for us. Every Saturday of November from 7:30 – 11:00, we met with writers in our area at the Flying M Coffee Shop and wrote our little hearts out. (Incidentally, Colby hit his 50,000-word goal while AT the M on our very last Saturday – which we celebrated! I’ve only ever hit my 50,000 words the first time I participated in NaNo and write fewer and fewer words every year. I don’t want to talk about it.)

 

Very soon, the new Nampa Public Library is opening, and that is BIG NEWS for us! The M-Inklings will be seeking out ways we can help promote literacy among their clientele. We’ve talked about the possibility of providing students of all ages with free writing help with their schoolwork in exchange for free space for our writing workshops for people in the community who are toying with the idea of writing books or magazine articles or starting blogs. Our hope is that those in the latter group will pay for our expertise and help us offset all the vacations we like to take together. (When The Flying M-Inklings start handling money, I’ll have to check back in and let you know how that goes. But this is in our near future, so in the meantime, if your writing group has any advice for us on the subject of sharing group money, we’d like to hear it!)

 

Finally, we are in talks now with our beloved coffee shop to sponsor our very first Flying Mic Writers’ Night where we M-Inklings as well as other writers from the community read their work and slam down some poetry. Daisy will sell a few books. Brandon and Katie will promote the books that they’re working on. Shannon and Colby will promote their blogs. We’re hoping Cody can come down and make an appearance. And we’re pretty much going to make Nic emcee the whole event. (He’s only now finding this out as he reads this with you…)

 

These are only a few options of a myriad of possibilities. If your writing group is out in your community like we are, then we definitely want to hear from you. We want ideas! We are curious to know what kind of events you are sponsoring. Where are you in this process? Does your group make money? How do you handle all that? What are your ideas about the ultimate writing group? The M-Inklings will be checking in here on Chip’s blog, and we’ll write you back and answer any questions you may have. As you can see, we have some questions for you!Daisy

 

Talk soon!

Daisy Rain

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Daisy Rain Martin is Editor in Chief for RAIN Magazine. She is also the author of Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside and If It’s Happened to You, which can both be found on her website. Look for Hopegivers: Hope is Here in 2015.

Join the Rainy Dais Community and Friend Daisy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The incredibly talented creator of the Flying M-Inklings logo is Geoff Siler @ www.geoffsiler.com