Archive for September, 2009

Slush I Read by Jim C. Hines

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever, On Writing  by John Brown on September 30th, 2009
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Laughs are lovely. I just came across this wonderful parody by novelist Jim C. Hines which will give you a few for free. Enjoy!

Slush I Read
by Jim C. Hines

(Apologies to Seuss)

I read slush.
Slush I read.

That slush I read.
That slush I read!
I do not like that slush I read.

Do you like fanfic with vamps?

I do not like them Mary Sue.
Why do these vamps all worship you?

Here’s a tale from D & D!

I do not want your D & D.
I do not like your elf PC.
I can not stand your purple prose.
I want to punch you in the nose!

Would you like a hot sex scene?
I wrote it for my online ‘zine!

Go to Hines’ site and read the rest right now

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John guests on Writing Excuses season 3 episode 18

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc., On Writing  by John Brown on September 27th, 2009
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Here’s the second episode I recorded with the Writing Excuses guys.

In the first podcast we talked about putting and not putting ourselves in our writing and making characters who don’t all sound like the author. In this one, we talked about how to not repeat ourselves in ways that make the reader feel like they’re getting the same old same old.

As usual, the guys had some great insights. Check it out: How to Not Repeat Yourself.

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How libraries select books

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on September 24th, 2009

Back in May I wrote about a Gallup survey that shed some light on how US adults select books to read. That poll revealed that book reviews only play a role 7% of the time with readers. The most important things to readers are prior experience with an author and recommendations from someone they know.

But there’s another important block of buyers that don’t buy the same way. In fact, for them reviews are KING.

Who are these buyers?

Public libraries.

And the library market isn’t small. According to  a fascinating Library Journal article, “there are more than 9,000 in the US, and that’s not counting branches.” Furthermore, “library purchases account for over ten percent of the $27 billion industry (excluding print textbooks for K–12 and higher ed). In contrast to consumer buying, which relies on discretionary dollars, the library market remains a consistent sales channel for publishers.”

When looking at how many books average authors sell and what it takes to make a living writing, it becomes very apparent that libraries can have a huge effect on a midlist writer’s career.

Of course, we all know there’s more to it than sales. The article points out:

Libraries are far more than a market, however. Libraries create readers. They are the test bed, the petri dish for books, a place where people can discover a passion for reading as children and indulge it as adults and where passionate readers can sample new authors. Librarians are the ultimate handsellers of books (though they call it readers’ advisory), and increasingly they put their considerable technical skills into making library web sites rich interactive social networks for book lovers.

I love libraries for this very reason. And because there’s no way I could purchase all the books I read. No way in heck. So how do they find the books for their collections? I mentioned above that they used reviews. But I didn’t know how much until I saw the data. Holy schnitzel (click on the graphic to see it full size).

HowLibrariesSelectBooks.

This only makes sense. Study after study has shown that buyers don’t want unlimited choice. Readers use prior experience and recommendations from people they know to manage the chaos. Libraries use reviews and then patron recommendations. Of course, this use of reviews has other implications as shown below.

I get a lot of requests from self-published authors asking me to buy their books, and I have to explain that with limited resources and only so much space on the shelves, we have to go with books that are reviewed, that have been professionally edited. With nearly half a million books published each year—maybe half of them self-published, and most of those pretty awful—I just don’t have time to go beyond trusted sources. This usually doesn’t go over well.

About 9 months ago I wrote about how cumulative advantage can drive product popularity–products that get early positive notice tend to get more notice. It appears that cumulative advantage is at work again. It’s just that with libraries the method isn’t a download counter. The article’s author concludes, “the best way to reach the library market is indirectly: by publishing books that people want to read and having them assessed objectively in reviews.”

So what are the major sources for pre-publication book reviews? The article lists five big ones:

  • Booklist
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • Library Journal
  • Publishers Weekly
  • School Library Journal

But what can an author do with this information? Authors can’t control reviews. Heck, according to the article the Library Journal itself only reviews about 10% of the books they receive.

We all know the answer. Authors can control one thing: they can strive to write the best holy freaking heck book in their power. After all, what’s a review but a recommendation? Besides, patron recommendations were #3 on the librians’ list anyway. Nevertheless, it DOES help to have a publisher who sends your book out to the reviewers and their catalogs out to libraries. It helps to have a team that’s connected with librarians.

The article ends by saying publishers and libraries are actually working together. I liked how the author summed it up.

What publishers offer:

  • Discovery of talent
  • Shaping and refining books
  • Design, distribution, marketing, and promotion

 What librarians offer:

  • Discovery of books
  • Nurturing of diverse reading communities
  • Selection, distribution, marketing, and promotion

Here’s to libraries! (And good reviews. And grandmas. And the little house trolls that give writers fabulous ideas.)

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Library Journal gives Servant of a Dark God a starred review

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on September 23rd, 2009

Library Journal just gave Servant of a Dark God a starred review. Yesss! BTW, that’s not one star out of four or five. The review gets a star or it doesn’t. Those with a star are “highly-rated.” I just wish I could lick it and put it on my forehead.

Brown, John. Servant of a Dark God. Tor. Oct. 2009. (The Dark Gods, Vol. 1). c.448p. ISBN 978-0-7653-2235-7. $25.99. FANTASY

Suffering under the oppressive rule of their Mokaddian conquerors, the Koramites hide ancient magics that draw power from a person’s “days,” thus shortening the lives of the donors. A young boy becomes caught up in a personal and political struggle when one of the Divines who knows how to wield this power disappears. Brown’s first novel, the opener in a new fantasy series, creates an elaborate new world with a rich and deep spiritual and political background. VERDICT Reminiscent of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s “Recluce” novels and David Drake’s “Lord of the Isles” series and David Farland’s “Runelords” books, this well-wrought tale of families in conflict against both politics and religion represents a welcome addition to large-scale fantasy.

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Trailer for Gentlemen Broncos

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever  by John Brown on September 21st, 2009

I died laughing. I have no idea if this is going to be any good, but the trailer is great! Two thumbs up!!

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John guest posts about writing memorable fiction on ReidWrite

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc., On Writing  by John Brown on September 20th, 2009
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Luc Reid is the author of, among other things, Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures.  He is also the lizard king of Codex, which he started and of which I’m so happy to be a member. He’s always starting provocative threads on Codex, making us all think and reexamine the principles of story and the whole writing business. He recently posted some insights about what makes memorable stories. A lot of other fellow Codexians joined in the discussion. Happily, he asked me to share some of my thoughts on his site, ReidWrite. They begin as follows:

YOU’RE MINE, DEAR READER

 Mwuhahaha.

 Okay, maybe not. But you are wired to be mine. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let’s back up. Luc wrote about writing memorable. I agree with the idea that the stories that produce a strong emotional reaction are the most memorable. In fact, I believe that triggering of emotion is THE reason why linear narrative that puts us into the trance has lasted so long in so many forms and makes so much money.

But can writers guide reader emotions? Or is it all just by accident?

Read the rest here: http://reidwrite.livejournal.com/8331.html.

BTW, when you’ve finished that, you might want to check out Luc’s new site, WillpowerEngine.com. It’s a place where he shares what he’s found in his research for his current book project, The Willpower Engine, on how self-motivation works. I think you’ll find a number of the posts there very interesting.

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