- Audible’s Indigenous writers circle program launches;
- Ninja favourite Carl Phillips wins the $75K Jackson Poetry Prize;
- Polish book industry looks at making fixed-price books;
- Author Hilary Mantel and noted Transphobe JK Rowling among those donating to world vaccine rollout efforts;
- Authors, never, ever respond to a bad review…
- Or if you do, write a poem like Cynthia Ozick did;
- See? Nothing was cancelled… one publisher made a business decision based on their moral compass and another made a different decision, presumably based on theirs… The Roth bio by alleged abuser finds new home;
- Less structure = more reading for kids?;
- German novel lost for 83 makes bestseller lists in the UK;
- New wave of SciFi authors of Colour explore new types of societies;
Month: May 2021
The Quill’s Agony Editor advice column tackles the shame and awkwardness some writers when promoting their books via social media.
I’ve often told newer writers that there’s two stages to being a writer: create art, then edit and craft it. But there’s three stages to being at author: create art, craft it, then sell it. Publishing is a business for everyone involved. And to publish is to “make public”, so what are you doing if not taking your ideas public? The art part of the whole endeavour is fun for me. The rest? Meh.
I have tried various levels of book promotion online, and I will tell you this: it works, mostly. Not spectacularly, but generally. My book Glimpse actually made it onto a bestseller list, in part because I supported the book heavily in the early days of social media — including its own stand-alone app on iPhone (I know!). That said, we’re talking about Canadian poetry here, and the difference to my pocketbook was negligible. But it sure did get a lot of press. And books I’ve supported less (my little psycho book Diversion that is actually pretty awesome, but relatively unread) have quietly disappeared. Perhaps more than anything, promoting your work online is something positive “to do” during a time plagued by doubt, boredom, and agonizing waits.
Am I good at it? Sure. Do I feel comfortable doing it? Not entirely. That said, I look at it this way: It’s like any party or event or obligation you don’t want to go to or perform at… Once you’re there, you just keep your head down, do the work, and power through.
It’s like finally getting on stage after a bowel-liquifying bout of stage fright behind the curtains. You step into the light and just leave it all behind because you have a job to do. And the truth is, once you’re in it, it’s fine. Leave the doubt for later, lying awake two months later wondering if you made a fool of yourself. Do the work now and sell the damn book.
Dear Agony Editor,
When it comes to promoting the work of other writers on social media, I have zero shame. I’m a screaming cheerleader. But when it’s time to promote my own work, I clam up. I’d like to get better at self-promotion, but shaking my own pompoms makes me feel like a cheeseball. How do I get over this?
Little No Peep
My old pal, and one of the original book bloggers, Maud Newton posted on Twitter about turning 50 (’71 babies UNITE!) and just publishing her first book. She hints that life happens and books come when they can. Don’t give up is her message. A good message. And I’m glad she didn’t. Now read this saga: Deesha Philyaw, a black woman who nearly swept the year’s literary awards, was rejected over and over for…. uh… reasons? Long way to go, publishing. Congratulations, Deesha. Glad you didn’t give up.
“In advocating for Deesha,” Philyaw’s agent, Danielle Chiotti, told me, “it was crucial to make sure that the truth of her stories was allowed to shine.”
Chiotti targeted a wide range of editors, from the big five New York trade publishers to smaller presses. For the first month, rejections rolled in. Many employed that time-honored publishing boilerplate: Philyaw’s collection, editors said, just wasn’t a good fit for their houses. “It’s hard,” said Chiotti, “not to wonder what is really behind the phrase not a good fit.”
- CBC Poetry Prize juror Canisia Lubrin has some advice for entrants;
- Afua Cooper wins Atlantic Poetry Prize for poetry;
- PW is covering the US Book Show, and here’s their Indigenous Voices roundup;
- British Book Award winners announced;
- Raven Leilani takes Dylan Thomas Prize;
- It’s finally a woman’s world: how women conquered fiction;
- PEN condemns and seeks answers on Israel’s bombing of the free press in Gaza;
- Atwood and Whitehead discuss literary adaptations;
- Courtney Love read “Daddy” by Plath as her Mickey Mouse audition… it does track;
- Today in literary scandals: this shitshow;
- Beijing goes hybrid with book fair;
- These bookshelf insert scenes are neat, but who has space on a shelf?;
- You getting in on Levar Burton’s new book club?;
- What can fiction do for truth that true crime can’t? Create empathy;
- Author’s creepy stalker hits where it hurts: GoodReads;
I used to consume Scrabble like some people consume meth. It was really the only game that ever held my attention, other than chess. I played every day. I seldom ended a two person game with fewer than 400 points. A bad game was one with no bingos. I played so much and so often, online and off, that I eventually had to just give it up cold turkey, as I’d done years before playing chess. I got so deep into it, I’d play first thing in the morning on waking up, like a smoker with that cigarette. The headspace was somewhere between addiction and OCD, which are really related, I suppose, in terms of control. Anyway, here’s an article delving into how the rules should be applied. … … … … No, it’s YOUR leg that’s shaking under the table.
Can you play the word FART in Scrabble? The short answer calls on the old adage: your house, your rules. The long answer, investigating the question of exactly which words are valid, is much more interesting. Like language itself, Scrabble’s list of playable words is living and evolving, even branching into new subspecies if you extend that metaphor. Attempts to make hard rules about what’s allowed reveal myriad edge cases, inconsistencies, and contradictions. Of course, the real question isn’t about FART at all, but more offensive words. Ultimately, the history of the Scrabble dictionary and its most controversial entries is both twisty and still unfolding.
- Three emerging writers land Writers Trust mentorships;
- WattPad is Canadian no more;
- Numbers show writers taking massive income hits during Covid;
- It it odd that a history prize would announce anything “in advance”?;
- Colin Kaepernick’s book is out;
- Idk, I’d be honoured to have my work riffed on by someone talented;
- RIP: Seamus Deane, Irish author, dead at 81;
- Sir Doyle? Sir Conan? Sir Conan Doyle? Sir Arthur?;
- Can a manuscript be haunted? If so, Virginia Woolf is a pretty decent resident ghost to have, I’d say;
- Alison Bechdel interviewed;
- Of the reasons to delete GoodReads, competitiveness is not mine;
- Forest of Reading events go online with CBC partnership;
- Do you like some Keanu with your Orpah?;
- Look, I have no idea what any of this non-fungible token thing means, but apparently it’s coming for us one day, so someone please explain it to me… and someone else find a word we can replace “fungible” with ASAP;
- Plagiarism: we come by it honestly;
- Now here’s a book club I can dig: Levar Burton goes solo;
- Is scholarly writing too difficult to read? Depends on your interpretation of the structuring structures that structure possible grammars as semantic symbols associated with concrete descriptors of a malleable physical reality…;
- Carmen Maria Machado pushes back against banning of her book;
- Go ask Alice: on the kids book that’s for adults;
- This “The Green Knight” trailer is making a strong appeal to nerd-me to force poetry-me to loosen up about how I feel about the fact that the movie was made in the first place…;
- SF superhero Samuel Delany on why he writes;
- Has Covid changed the reading habits of kids in school?;
- What are your weirdest reading habits?;
- There are celebrity DJs? Huh. This one is now a novelist;
- Has anyone seen Lee Child and Bryan Cranston in the same room?;
- More on authors’ fight to make Disney pay what’s owed;
- Ninja pals and favs dominate Trillium Award shortlists;
- Aurora shortlists for Canadian SFF are out;
- Doug Wright Award winners announced;
- Breaking down the numbers: how much do authors get paid? (wait, we’re supposed to get paid?);
- Print vs. digital: kid-learning edition… which works better?;
- Maya Angelou among first women to appear on US quarter;
- What rhymes with “intramuscular injection?”;
- Powell’s employees’ union flexes its newly acquired muscle;
- Kate Middleton in news cycle war with Meghan Markle… at least it’s around books;
- On Stacey Abrams and the thriller novel;
- Frankfurt makes freedom of expression a core program;
- Myanmar poet killed by ruling junta, returned to family organless;
- On the crazy country houses of Agatha Christie’s work;
- New YA graphic novel imprint;
- An architect’s eye on the world’s best indie bookstores;
- Emerging writer award list includes some familiar faces, Michelle Good, Desmond Cole among them (some writers don’t “emerge”, s much as blink into existence, fully formed);
- Is the new golden age of TV is boosting diversity in literature?;
- On getting the right audiobook narrator;
- A good thing to come out of all this? Foreign author tours;
- The trans and nonbinary voice actors shaking up the audiobook industry;
- On Charles Dickens and grief;
- Yeats is getting a new statue in London;
- The big presses are having a good start to the year;
- Did you know that 50 Cent is big in the crime screenwriting world?;
- Is being a good with words enough to get you laid? (asked every English major ever);
- Things you need to see: a collection Victorian knitting manuals;
This article hits a few nerves. I have a large variety of children in my life and about half of them are readers. Of those directly around me, the eldest, a woman of 23, is a reader, the next a young man of 20 is not. The 18-year-old fellow reads constantly, but mostly the same novels over an over, and the 13-year-old would-be skate punk does not go near anything that isn’t illustrated in Japan.
I can’t tell you why some will read and some won’t. They all got read to as babies and children, they all had scads of books available — but at some point, some of them stopped. I can only hope they’ll come back, and suspect they will in some ways, but the entire delivery method may have changed by then.
Listen, I throw my hands up. They’re not dead. They have enough pocketed pizza for snacks. Their shoes get replaced every six months as their toes come up against the leather. They’re one-by-one making it to adulthood with only minor traumas. Given the state of things these days, I feel like that’s the bar I’m shooting for.
From birth to about eight years old, it all went fine: I tried some of the stuff I had loved as a kid, and they found that too boring, but it didn’t matter, because hark, new books are written constantly, and the fountain of Wimpy Kid is, like the one in scriptures, ever flowing, its waters in perpetual motion (plus, did you see the latest film? It’s genuinely, stone-cold-classic good). Both kids got into the Maze Runner books at about the same time as they decided it was beneath their dignity to be read to together, and if there is an act of greater parental devotion than to read the entire, turgid trilogy, then go back to the beginning and read it again; I don’t know what that would look like.