Friday, April 17, 2009

Are Book Agents Worth the Money?

So they take some of the workload off the writer's shoulders. They can make it easier for publishing houses to filter through the good and the bad. But in today's booming publishing industry, is it worth the money to hire an agent? If you want to submit to a large publishing house, an agent is sometimes required. However, there are many ways to get a work published now and each method has its pros and cons. Many authors are turning to self-publishing, blogs, electronic publishing, etc. Many books have experienced success in these alternate channels, and with electronic methods becoming more accepted and integrated I wonder if it's threatening to the literary agents. There are a number of benefits I didn't even realize came with a literary agent until reading the description of what they do.
But there's no disagreement on the fact that after that first sale is made, a good agent is a tremendous boon to a writer's career. Agents have industry contacts and inside knowledge that most writers don't possess. They keep current with editors' tastes and needs, know what new imprints are starting up and which ones are downsizing, stay abreast of changing corporate policies, keep track of who's newly hired and who just got fired. They negotiate advances and publishing contracts to their clients' advantage, and are experienced in marketing subsidiary rights. Just as important, agents serve as writers' advocates in the increasingly complex and competitive world of publishing.
It appears these people still have their uses, as long as you're not getting scammed. Once again, I see no solid answer as to whether or not hiring an agent is worth the money...I suppose it all depends on how much you're willing to risk and what exactly it is you're wanting to publish.

Paid to Blog?

Famed political bloggers like Markos Zuniga and Jerome Armstrong have been under scrutiny for possibly getting paid under the radar by political campaigns to speak highly of a certain candidate. Not only political parties are taking advantage of the reach successful blogs have to the public. Advertisers and sponsors are getting on the boat as well. This proves a threat to bloggers who wish to maintain the integrity of the craft. Blogger Aaron Brazell said in his article on The Politics of Blogging:
I don’t want to get into the politics of all this. However, if bloggers are to be seen as credible sources, it would seem to me that being transparent in endorsements and dealings should be a natural requirement.
In my opinion, a blogger who gets paid to say something on behalf of someone else has become a commercial machine. I understand what Brazell means when he says the blogger's credibility is threatened once his readers realize they are reading a sales pitch, not an actual opinion. Even if the monetary exchange was out in the open, credibility could still be challenged because an ulterior motive has been introduced. Tris Hussey had this to say about getting paid to blog in someone's favor:
For the “sponsored post” or “paid placement”, the same thing goes. Just because you pay me, doesn’t mean you’ve bought me. I won’t sing the praises of you or your product. Frankly, you don’t want that really. I’m of no value to you, as a place for your ad or information, if no one is reading me anymore.
I would have to respectfully disagree with the point of the statement. Yes, the blogger becomes of no value to the sponsor if he's lost his audience, but the fact that the sponsor would decide to keep paying proves it's either a fool with money or there is an influence over the blogger that is bought. In general, I'd say it's a bad idea to accept money for blogs which are supposed to be the blogger's opinion. If the money is too attractive an offer, the best way to go would be to attempt to keep it under the radar. After all, if it's your opinion and someone wants to pay you to say it because it lines up with them, why risk the chance of losing your credibility or losing the offer?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Are Blogs So Popular??

So it's not a secret now that I am not a fan of ebooks. I can't get out of my mind how bad for your eyes is staring at a screen for hours. Obviously you can't escape the computer for a ton of other fun things, but for books, you can. Anyway, when I first heard about blogs as a source of exposure for aspiring writers I again was skeptical. Who reads blogs for fiction anyway? And who actually gets a successful career from blogging beginnings? Wouldn't it be terribly easy for anyone to just steal your work right from under your nose? Apparently a zillion people read blogs, there are many people who have been catapulted to success because of their start in blogs, and I'm guessing there are ways to protect your work. Even so, this can't be a real shot at success, can it? This article I found had an interesting statistic:
The popularity of Weblog is gaining momentum. As per a survey conducted by,50 Million US population ( i.e- 1 in 6 of total US population or 30% of the total US online population) visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005. This represents a 45% increase compared to the quarter one of 2004. Blog visitors are 11% more likely than the average Internet user to have incomes of $75,000 or more.
Why 11%? Do they visit blogs because they want to be intellectually stimulated and then have a higher chance of earning more money OR do they already earn more money because of their already stimulated mind so they seek out blogs for fun? I'm curious only because one doesn't increase your odds at all, the other does give you room for improvement. If I had an 11% higher chance at earning more just for reading blogs I might be persuaded to do it. However, until that's proven I think I'll stick with the books.

Interesting Stats and Facts

I came across this website called and discovered a lot of interesting statistics and facts about the publishing industry. I've often wondered with this increasing fascination in all things electronic how long hard-copy books would survive in the market. I admit I am very skeptical that e-books could become so popular as to make hard-copy book sales rare or obsolete, but that's what I said about digital cameras and ipods. I'm not a huge fan of electronic books only because I think staring at a screen for hours is bad for your eyes, and you can't take your computer around like you can a good book. Part of me wonders if it's just the part of me that resists change (that was the reasoning for my dislike of digital photos...which I love now, btw). Still, it's a bit alarming to see facts like:
The largest growth area in publishing is currently eBooks. In January 2006, eBook sales jumped by over 50%.
About 20% of online sales are of titles not available in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Projections are this figure will soon reach a third of all book sales.
I hope it doesn't become too difficult to find a good book to read on a shelf. I guess for now I can thank the older generations for keeping the old (but wonderful) publishing methods in full swing.
Half of all books sold today are to people over the age of 45. Thank you Boomers!
Yes, thank you from all of us who hate the thought of curling up by the fire with a bright little laptop. :o)

Effectiveness of Writing Tips

I wrote a paper last year in one of my writing classes about how to beat writer's block. I basically sat down and thought about all the things that inspire people and narrowed the list down to 10 things. I got an A on the paper, but it left me thinking how effective these tips can really be. I am not a real writer. I write things down when I get the inkling to do so, but I haven't invested much time or energy in developing my own writing ability. How is it, then, that I could possibly tell anyone how to overcome writer's block? Answer: I used logic. But logic doesn't always translate into effective sharpening tools. So how useful would these logical tips on writing be for an actual writer? Step 3: Step up to bat and take a few swings. What does that even mean? It explains in the text that it means you should breathe deeply, visualize, and affirm yourself. Sounds interesting (kind of), but does it work? Maybe an accomplished writer can tell me. These tips are geared towards business documents, so it's a bit different than the fiction I'm interested in, but do you really have to breathe deeply, visualize, and affirm yourself to write a business document? At least you're not spilling your heart out to an audience that just wants to be entertained. I just want to know if these tips would work in any setting, or if it is just the fluff that people like to read and print but do nothing about.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Online Newspapers: Gaining Respectability

I have a friend who writes for an online newspaper and as part of the submitting process, her articles are reviewed by copy editors and sent back with comments to her for final revisions. However, the articles are submitted anonymously and so, any comments made by the editors are blindly directed towards any of the writing team. The names of the writers are revealed only when the articles are accepted for submission, a blind-fold step that's similar to writing contests to bar against selecting articles based on names. I feel that this is a step toward legitimizing online newspapers and gives them an added degree of respectability. Still despite this, it doesn't mean that I would suddenly trust online newspapers as I'm one of those degenerates who doesn't read the news, paper or online. For those who do rely for news online, this is probably comforting, to know that the people who run this particular newspaper are concerned enough to set up such a system. It gives me hope that future online publications will continue to create stringent standards in an effort to legitimize their articles.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing for the Grave

As you all know the best selling author, Michel Crichton passed away last year. The famous writer wrote such books as “Jurassic Park” and also won various awards for his work on the concluded series “ER”, but for all you fans out there two more novels well be released posthumously by the author.

One of the books was writted before he passes away and the other will be completed with the help of his notes. The HarperCollins publishers stated that the completed novel (called "Pirate Latitudes") will be published this November.

“The second book, to be published in late 2010, is a technological thriller ‘which explores the outer edges of new science and technology,’ HarperCollins said in a statement…The book will be based on extensive notes and files that Crichton compiled before his death and will be completed by an author yet to be determined [and] the title has not yet been decided.”