Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I really don't go in for talking about current events on the blog. The main reason for this is the fact that I am profoundly out of touch with the outside world. I don't have cable and I don't watch the news. On the rare occasion I miss the news and feel the need to absorb some fearmongering bullshit, I just drop a tab of acid and read a Lovecraft story. There's less pretense that way.
I generally assume that if something really interesting happens, one of my friends will tell me, or it will show up in some of the webcomics I read. In a pinch, I assume I'll simply absorb the knowledge through the aether, have it beamed into my mind with alien space rays, or apprehend it directly through examination of my Socratic soul using the dialectic.
I'm well aware that this isn't the most efficient or comprehensive way to aggregate information. But it still beats the hell out of watching Fox News.
The other reason I don't talk much about the issues
on here is that when things are big enough to be interesting, they also tend to be so big that it's hard for me to form easily encapsulated opinions about them.
For example, when there was the big kerfuffle about Google digitizing a shitload of books and thereby egregiously violating international copyright law, I was interested. Anything dealing with intellectual property rights effects me personally and professionally. So I read a bunch of stuff about it, thought some thoughts, and had a few really good conversations with a few of my librarian friends.
The upshot of my research? It's a really complicated issue, and I have mixed feelings about it. Is Google being a bit of a dick and doing morally questionable stuff? Absolutely. But.... Well.... It's more complicated than that.
See? Any blog I wrote on the issue would be nothing more than a long-winded shrug. Not terribly fun to write, and not particularly entertaining to read.
That's my recent take on the current Amazon dealio.
For those of you who haven't heard. Amazon (the bookseller) recently got into a bit of an argument with Macmillan (a book publisher) about e-book pricing. As a result, Amazon pulled all of Macmillan's books off their website. Not just the e-books. All the books.
I've done some research and talked to some people and my conclusion is that.
1. This is a big deal.
2. Amazon is being a bit of a dick, and attempting to bully folks in order to get more of the publishing pie than is really fair.
This feels weird for me to say, because honestly, Amazon has been good to me over the years. They gave me good reviews and really helped promote my book early on. It was really nice.
But it really doesn't matter how good they've been to me in the past. If you're nice to me, then beat up my neighbor for his lunch money, you're still a bully. I'm afraid there's just no way around it.
3. This whole thing is pretty complicated, and I'm not well informed enough make any real intelligent assessment of the overall situation or what it might mean for publishing, DRM, or the future of e-books.
If you're interested in that sort of thing, you might want to check out this blog written by the lovely and talented Charles Stross. He understands the landscape of publishing WAY better than me and does a great job of summing things up.Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider's guide to the fight
Here's also a blog from Tobias Buckell that has more technical details. He does some of the math for you and explains what all this really means in a delightfully low-bullshit way.Link to Buckell's blog.
Here's the public statement from Macmillan too.
I'm bringing this to your attention because if you're like me, you sometimes miss things like this unless someone points them out. Also, I'm guessing most of you kinda like books.
I like books too, and while two companies having a corporate slapfight might seem far removed from the book you pick up, read, and enjoy, the truth is that these corporate manoeuvrings have very real effects on which books get published in the future, their quality, and how well authors get treated in the process.
If anyone else has relevant links they'd like to post in the comments below, please feel free to do so. I'm way too tired to dig up more stuff right now. I've got to go to bed.
We're living in interesting times, folks....
Labels: a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Amazon, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Friday, October 30, 2009
Everyone Hates Their Job Sometimes...
Here's the truth. Sometimes I hate writing this fucking book.
I know this isn't something most of you want to hear. You want to hear that it's going well. (Which is it.) You also want to hear that I love every moment of writing it. It's my baby, right? You have to love your baby...
Well, yes. But technically I've been working on this trilogy since 1994. The book is more like a teenager in some ways. You love a teenager too, but you can also be angry with a teenager. And sick of its endless shit.
The problem is this. People want to believe that being a published writer is a beautiful, happily-ever-after, candy mountain place where all your dreams come true.
Unfortunately, that's bullshit.
This is a part of something I've come to think of as The Myth of the Author. I'm not going to get into the details right now. That's a blog for a whole different day. But the gist of my theory is that, in general, people think of writers as a different sort of person. And by extension, writing is a different sort of work. It's strange and wonderful. It's a mystic process. It can't be quantified. It's not chemistry, it's alchemy.
While some of that is true, this belief makes it really difficult for me to bitch about my job.
For example, if a doctor wrote a blog saying. "Fuck! sometimes I hate being a doctor…" People would read it and say, "Yeah man. I can see where you're coming from. Long hours. Tons of responsibility. People expect a lot out of you. That's a rough gig."
On the other hand, if I come on here and bitch about my job. People will be disappointed. Irritated even.
Why would people be irritated? For several reasons.
Reason #1: It's irritating when people complain about having a simple job.
Of course, writing a novel isn't simple. Anyone that's ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven't tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.
To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)
He told me the story of the time he'd met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: "Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don't seem to have the time."
The author got a irritated just telling me this story. "When you say something like that," he said. "It's like saying being a writer doesn't take any skill. It's something anyone can do. But only a very slim percentage of the population can write well enough to make a living at it. It's like going up to a doctor and saying, 'yeah. My appendix was inflamed. I was going to take it out myself, but I didn't really have the time.'"
Newbie writer that I was, I simply enjoyed the story, privately thinking that surely *my* readers would never be so foolish to assume that. And even if they did, I wouldn't mind that much…
Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got the following e-mail:
I'm a librarian, former teacher. I just read your book, very good. But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn't your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here's my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don't need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don't need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You're done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.
For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, this is the letter I was thinking about mocking Waaaay back in May
Re-reading it now, most of my irritation has faded. But my profound sensation of *What the Fuck* is still as strong as ever.
Let's not even deal with the first half of the letter. Let's ignore the fact that this woman isn't a publicist, an editor, or my personal life-coach. Let's jump straight to how she explains how I should write my book:
Oh. I need to sit down. I see. I need to know where to END it. I hadn't thought of that.
And chronological order? Brilliant! Up until this point I'd been arranging all the chapters by length.
I mean seriously. You people do know that I have to make the entire book up, right? I'm not just cribbing it out of Kvothe's biography, right?
And I lack the words to express my stupification at the offhand advice that I should just "smooth out the transitions."
That's not true. I do have the words. They go like this: "If this is the sort of advice you used to give your students when you were a teacher, thank you for not being a teacher any more."
I counted yesterday. Do you know book two has eighteen fucking plotlines? Six entirely distinct settings, each with their own casts of characters? How exactly to I smooth that out? Do you think I just go down to the writing store, buy some fucking transition putty, and slather it on?
Okay. I lied. I guess I'm still irritated.
Truth is, I know that this letter comes from a place of love. This person is genuinely trying to help me. Deep in her heart of hearts, this woman believes she knows how to write a novel. The answers are so obvious. It seems simple to her…
This is why some folks will get irritated if I complain about my job. Because they think writing is simple.
But it isn't. Nobody's job is as simple as it looks from the outside.
Reason #2: It's not cool to complain about your dream job.
I'm well aware of the fact that, I'm living the dream. A lot of people want to be published. They want it so bad they can taste it. They'd give anything…
I know this because that's how I used to feel.
I'm lucky: I got published. What's more, I'm one of the few writers that gets to write full time. Even better, I've gone international, and people all over the world are waiting for the next book.
But that doesn't mean I don't hate my job sometimes.
It doesn't matter what you do for a living. Ron Jeremy probably calls in sick some days because he just can't stand the thought of getting another blowjob. I don't doubt that Mike and Jerry over at Penny Arcade
occasionally wake up in the morning and think, "Fuck, I've got to play more fucking video games today."
That's just the way of the world. Everyone hates their own job sometimes. It's an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.
Reason #3: The Myth of the Author.
People want to believe that the act of creation is a magical thing. When I write, I am like some beardy old-word god, hewing the book from some raw piece of literary firmament. When I write, the muse is like a lithe, naked woman, sitting on my lap with her tongue in my ear.
(This would make a great bookjacket photo.)
And you want to know the truth? Sometimes it's exactly like that. Sometimes when I write, I'm so full of adrenaline that I could lift up a truck. I can feel my my tripartite soul burning in my chest like molten gold.
But sometimes it sucks. Just like any job. I get bored revising the same chapters over and over. My back hurts from hunching over the keyboard. I am so tired of fucking spellcheck. Do you know how long it takes to run spellcheck on 350,000 words?
I'm tired of trying to juggle everything: the plotlines, the character arcs, the realistic depiction of a fantastic world, the pacing, the word choice, the tension, the tone, the stories-within-stories. Half of it would be easy, but getting everything right at once? It's like trying to play cat's cradle in n-dimensional space.
The truth is, sometimes I'm so sick of sitting in front of this computer I could shit bile.
There. That's all. I'm not quitting. I'm not even taking the night off. I just needed to vent.
Thanks for being here. Remember to tip your waitress. I'll be here all week.
Labels: fanmail, Rage, the man behind the curtain, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
New York Times Bestseller: It's offical.
For those of you who haven't heard the news yet.....
(Click to Embiggen)
That's me at the bottom. I've come all the way up to #11 since last week.
Something I never knew before: Apparently, "An asterisk (*) indicates that a book's sales are barely distinguishable from the book above."
Makes me wish I'd bought a few more copies off Amazon to give away to friends....
Little story: After I got the news that I was now officially a New York Times Bestselling Author, I wandered out of my office and into the hallway, where my girlfriend was looking at her butt in the mirror. You can't really blame her for this, it's a nice butt.
"I made it to # 11 on the Times list," I said.
She made an excited squee-like noise and did something that was kind of like a little excited dance, and kind of like jumping around. It was the perfect response, and I'm glad that she did it. Somebody really has to. If I did it, I'd look demented and feel weird about myself. But when she does it it looks cute and earnest.
"You're so cool!" she said. "Do you want to celebrate?"
I thought about it. "We could get some Chinese food and watch Doctor Who...." I said after a little bit.
And that's exactly what we did.
It was only later that I realized when she said "celebrate" she was probably thinking something more... grandiose. It does make sense, I suppose. Making it onto the Times list is a pretty big deal. It's sort of an occasion. The type of thing that most people would associate with popping champagne and passing around cigars. Or renting a limo and going out to some manner of fancy dress-up restaurant.
Me? Chinese delivery and Doctor Who.
That's just how I roll.
Labels: accolates, cool news, new york times, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
New York Times Bestseller List - Part Two.
As most of you could probably tell from my last post, I wasn't really too coherent after I got the news about making the bestseller list.
Now that I've collected my wits, I figured I'd clarify a few things. Some of which I only recently became aware of myself....
First you'll note that the date of the list I posted is from April 20th. This doesn't mean that I know someone with a TARDIS. They make the list available before publication so that industry folks get an early clue-in.
Second, I feel obliged to point out that the list I'm on is the "Paperback Best Sellers EXPANDED
list." The regular NYT list only goes down to 20, and as you can see, I'm at #24.
What's the difference? Well, if you look in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, you'll find that they don't print the expanded list. Also, bookstores tend to only stock the regular list of books. Truth is, I'm not entirely sure if I technically qualify as a "New York Times Bestselling Author" or not.
While I admit I'm hoping to climb those last few places, simply making it onto the list at all is extraordinary. A lot of authors never make it, especially not with their first book.
And the reason I'm on there is you. You bought the book. You told your friends and family about it. You nominated me for awards. You voted
for me online
. You read it at the library and then posted good reviews on AMAZON
or Barnes and Noble
. You wrote about it
in your blog. You bugged your school librarian to order it. You listed it on your facebook profile. You drew fanart. You visited the website and read the blog....
In short, you helped to spread the word. Thank you all so much.
Lastly, in related news, I started a contest over on FACEBOOK
to celebrate the release of the paperback. I thought I'd already mentioned it on here, but looking back on my previous blogs, I see that I haven't. You've got until the end of the month if you're interested in participating...
Labels: contests, cool news, facebook, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
A new addition to the family....
So apparently, when a book gets published, it either has a hard publication date, or a soft one. I don't know if these are technical terms or not, but that's how I've come to think of it....
When my book came out a year ago, it had a hard sell date. They even stamped the boxes with it. I wonder if I can still find the picture I took of it, back in the day.
Yeah. Here it is....
When I first saw this, I remember thinking, "Wow. They must take this release date thing pretty seriously."
Then I remember thinking about what someone would say if they had to call this number. "I need to report a violation?" Sounds dirty. Personally, I would probably go with something more dramatic. Something along the lines of screaming "Help! My book has been violated!"
So anyway, I was at a signing in Seattle this weekend, and I got two lovely surprises.
The first was that a lovely young woman showed up and described my book as, "a literary orgasm." Personally, I think that's something we should put on the cover.
The second cool thing was this....
(I'm talking about the one on the right. The hardcover is just there to provide perspective.)
Yay! The paperback! Isn't it just the cutest thing?
Now, the official release date is April 1st. But, apparently, this is a different sort of release date. I know this because when I was on my way home from Seattle, I stopped by the airport bookstores and saw copies on the shelves there too.
I just thought I'd let y'all know that it's out there.
Hmmm.... Now I feel like I should say something sales-pitchy in order to encourage people to buy it. But I can't think of anything halfway serious.
"The Name of the Wind: even in paperback it will still stop a bullet."
"Now with 100% less naked man chest!"
"Ladies, all the literary orgasmicness of the hardcover, conveniently travel-sized!"
That's all I've got. If any of you have any flashes of marketing brilliance, you can leave them in the comments section below.
Hugs and Kisses,
Labels: Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Monday, March 3, 2008
Italian Style - Part Two.
Okay, before we do anything else, I feel like I should mention that I've updated the TOUR SCHEDULE
part of the page. Over there you'll find a list of some conventions/readings/signings/etc that I'll be doing this year.
Of particular note are my two appearances in St. Paul this weekend. I'll be appearing at two separate libraries, one on Saturday, the other on Sunday. It's free for anyone to attend. I'll sign books if you bring them, and there will be books there to buy...
More events will be posted in the weeks to come. Seattle folk - I'll be out near y'all over Easter weekend. I'll be posting those details soon.
Okay. On to business.
Response to the Italian cover was every bit as varied as I expected. But there was rather more of it than I'd thought there would be. Since there were a lot of good comments and questions, I decided that I'd do a follow-up post to clarify a few things.
Points of interest and/or clarification.
- The art is done by a guy named Brom.
I didn't know about him before someone made reference to the cover as Brom-art in the comments of the last blog, but I have seen his stuff before. Mostly on D&D books back in the day....
Side note: I am currently working on a theory that once you reach a certain degree of fame, you get bumped up to a new quantum energy state wherein you only need one name.
This is easier to achieve for artists (Donato, Brom) and musicians (Sting, Madonna).
It's much rarer for authors. I suspect they need way more energy, like electrons in different valence shells. So for writers, only the SUPER elite have enough juice to make the jump (Cervantes, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Chaucer).
- Brom's website is OVER HERE if you're interested.
- The art wasn't drawn for the book specifically. The Italian publisher bought the rights to a pre-existing piece of art to use as the cover for the book.
- It's not Kvothe or one of the Chandrian. Don't sprain anything trying to make that fit in your head. (Though I would like to see Brom's take on the Chandrian.)
- You didn't miss the part of the book where someone has an eye in his hand. Neither is the eye-hand a mistranslation issue or some strange cultural signifier.
- My favorite comments on the cover:
- Kip: "It's obviously a picture of Kvothe LARPing his favorite Vampire: The Requiem Character."
- "They must have wanted to picture someone with good eye-hand coordination."
- Sarah: "Kvothe has some sort of pointy pain stick. He should be careful or it will poke him in the hand-eye."
A few responses to questions and comments:
"Oh man Pat. As a graphic designer can I just say that that is a bad choice. There is no connection to the book that I can come up with at all. The thing on his hand is so prominent that people are going to wonder why its not in the book. It will be confusing. Then the really bad drop shadow, or black glow around the text is just bad design. The whole composition just was not meant to have text covering it."
I think you're right about the composition of the piece. It obviously wasn't meant to be obscured. I got the permission to show the original artwork from Brom: So here it is...
I'm pretty sure that they used that black shadow and my name to cover up Gothy McHotBod's nipple ring.
And yes, for those of you who are wondering, my chest looks exactly like that when I take my shirt off. By which I mean that I am pale as a bleached ghost on a moonlit night.
Christian asked: "Pat, I am very curious as to who that person is on the cover of the Italian version of your book. I'm pretty sure you would have a big say into what visually depicts your book to first time ( and in my case, long-time) readers."
Typically, authors get little-to-no say as to the covers of their books. Part of this is because the cover is, ultimately, a marketing choice, rather than an artistic one. And truthfully, publishers know more about marketing than authors do. Also, authors are word-smart, not necessarily picture smart.
That said, in my opinion it is a shame that authors aren't included in that process more frequently.
I did get to participate in the discussion about my US covers. But that is the exception to the rule, as my publisher, DAW, is very considerate. And my editor, Betsy, respects my opinion on these things. Still, they didn't say, "what do you think we should do." they said, "Here's what we're planning, what do you think?"
Still, it's nice to be asked.
My French publisher asked for my thoughts in the planning stage, and my Japanese editor asked early on if I had any suggestions as to who I would like as an artist. But none of the other foreign editors have included me so far. The first time I saw the Italian cover was about a week ago...
In a few of my more recent foreign contracts, I have approval of the final covers. But that doesn't mean that I get to design them. If the books continue to sell well, I'll probably get even more say in the future. I'm guessing.
"Why do they keep changing the cover? What's wrong with original Shirtless Kvothe and Green man?"
Those covers belong to the US publisher. The foreign publishers would have to buy the rights to them if they wanted to use them. They probably don't want to do that because they're marketing the book to an entirely different culture.
That's all for now, folks. I'm back to work on book two...
Labels: appearances, book covers, signing books, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Friday, February 22, 2008
Concerning Printings and a New Cover
Over the last year or so, I've learned a lot about the publishing industry.
I've always been a big reader, but I never spent much time wondering where books came from, or how they were made. Even when I started working on my books, I focused on the craft of writing, and not the particulars of getting published.
Because of this, I have weird gaps in my knowledge. For example, I just recently learned how identify different printings of books.
What's a printing? Well, when your book first comes out, your publisher takes a look at how many books the booksellers and distributors have ordered. Then the publisher prints enough books to cover those orders, plus some extra to have in the warehouse so that they can fill additional orders. That first printing is, well, the first printing.
These first printings can be of wildly different sizes. The first printing of the last Harry Potter book was huge, of course. While a lot of books by new authors get a very small first printings because the publishers don't know how well the book is going to sell.
From what I understand, a lot of books only get one printing.
But occasionally, something magical happens. Sometimes people keep buying a book from the stores, so those stores keep having to order more from the distributors. The distributors have to order more from the publisher, and then the publisher prints a new batch of the book: that's the second printing.
And so on, and so on...
I learned all of that fairly early on, but what I *didn't* know was how to tell the which printing was which. But now I do...
You know that page early on in the book with all that legal-y information on it?
Here's the one from my book. As always, guest starring my thumb...
Down here is the important bit.
Here's the tricky part. The line that says "First Hardcover Printing" doesn't actually tell you anything about the printing. It's the numbers underneath. Here all the numbers 1-10 are printed out. That means that this is a first printing.
Here's the second printing of my book. You can tell because the little number one is missing from the list. (Click the picture to embiggen.)
The fourth printing....
And lastly, the fifth printing:
The fifth printing is actually easier to spot than the other ones, as it has one additional subtle difference:
That's right. The fifth printing of the hardcover got an awesome new cover. I was really flattered that the publisher would do this. I really like the way it looks.
This means that Shirtless Kvothe and Angry Stone Man are a thing of the past. So hang on to them, folks. In five or ten years you'll be able to e-bay them and put your kids through college.
Also note that this cover makes it very clear that I am a winner, and that The Name of the Wind
is a novel. If you were confused about either of those things, you can rest easier now.
Labels: cool news, Things I didn't know about publishing
posted by Pat at
Monday, March 26, 2007
My Misspent Youth.
So a couple days ago, I come home, open the door, and find this waiting for me:
My first thought is that I might have blacked out and overdone it on Amazon again. But when I looked closer I realized what was really going on:
My book. My baby.
My next thought was that these might be my author copies. But there was WAY too many for that. Then I remembered that a couple weeks ago, one of the PR people at Penguin told me that a bookstore owner had read the advance copy of the book and really loved it. He wanted to buy a hundred copies for his store, and was wondering if I would sign them for him.
I said, "sure, no problem," then pretty much forgot about it.
Carrying all the books inside really made me realize that 100 books is, to put it delicately, a whole shitload. And this is just for one store....
So anyway, I pulled out a book and decided to get started. I figured this was going to take me a while, unpacking, signing, then repacking the books to ship back out.
But before I even opened the first book, I was paralyzed with performance anxiety. Seriously. I held the pen and thought, "What if my signature doesn't look... well... authory enough?"
You know that phase you go through when you're in middle school, where you practice your signature so you're ready for when you become a rock star and have to sign autographs all the time? I know most of my peer group went through this somewhere between the ages of 11 and 16. One of my friends actually developed an entire variant style of cursive writing that he's used ever since. It was, and still is, totally cool looking.
Anyway, I never went through that phase. I wanted to be a rock star. But I suspected I didn't have the right sort of hair. I also had the penmanship of a demented monkey. Plus, I was lazy and had no musical talent to speak of.
Instead I wasted my time reading books, talking to girls, and doing my physics homework. As I looked down at the hundred books I was supposed to sign, I mourned my misspent youth.
So I sat down and signed my name a couple times. Its one of those things that's easy if you're not thinking about it, and hard when you're concentrating too much. I suddenly became very aware of the fact that the O leading into the T and the H is kinda hard to do quickly. If you rush it, you get tripped up and your H gets tangled up with the F.
That's right. Laugh it up. It's a hard name to sign, especially when you're obsessing, and nervous, and you have, at best, the penmanship of a third grader.
Anyway, I toughed it out and did my best. I still think my signature looks a little goofy, and there are a few of them where the H looks like it's getting freaky with the F, and the F might not be entirely cool with it. But still, given the fact that I started this whole process with a significant handicap, I think I did pretty well.
I just finished the last one, repacked the boxes, and got them ready to send out.
So before I go to bed, I'd like to give you aspiring writers out there some advice. Learn from my mistakes. Practice your signature now.
Labels: my rockstar life, signing books, Things I didn't know about publishing
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