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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Benefits of Bad Press (Or: The Rebecca Black Phenomenon)

Let's talk Rebecca Black.

You may have hard of a young singer who released a song recently called Friday which has been resoundingly and universally panned by pretty much everyone who listens to it.

From the heavily auto-tuned vocals (which to me indicate a lack of trust in the 13 year old's singing ability) to the depth challenged lyrics to the cheesy self-conscious video. Rebecca and the song are being mocked worldwide through the interwebs, social media, morning breakfast shows and a plethora of parody videos have been uploaded to YouTube by the general public who I'm gonna call..."less than fans".

All of this, man it's horrible for an adult so it's definitely a lot for a 13 year old to deal with, right?
All the above said, at the time of writing this blog, her music video on YouTube had received just under THIRTY NINE MILLION VIEWS. Granted, it's doubtful that they are all unique hits (for instance it's the second time I'd clicked over to it) but that is still MILLIONS of people AROUND THE WORLD (for instance, I'm in Australia) who know who this girl is.

She's getting bad press - yes.But everyone is talking about her.

Friday was produced with Ark Music Factory and I clicked onto a couple of their other new artists and actually found a couple I liked.
For instance, I do quite like this one.

It's a good pop song. So why aren't we talking about Alana Lee? The difference is, there are a lot of "good" pop songs out there. It's just one of many. There certainly isn't anything to hate about it so it's disappeared into the midlist, just one more to add to the saturation of "good" songs out there.

My point is, when Rebecca Black brings out her next single and video (and if she's smart she will have learned from all of the overly harsh criticism and created something great) the world will be watching and may even become fans.

Even with press as bad as this - I can certainly see the benefits.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Visual Inspiration

I was looking through stock photos today at iStock and I found a lot of story-laden stuff. I've never REALLY looked through stock photos cos I figured they'd be like model shots and I don't have any use for that.

But check out some of the stuff I found. Really atmospheric and with lots of personality. Reckon you could write something on one of these? I know I could. And have! Sorry they're so little. Didn't realise when I saved them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing Students Geek Out to John Marsden you may recall I was pretty psyched for John Marsden to come and do his thang at Uni this week.

And then I had a job interview on the SAME DAY at THE SAME TIME. Can you believe that? I missed John Marsden! (But I got the job!)

But I have been informed that the writing and publishing students, even those not interested in YA literature geeked out and fan-girled at the mere presence of John Marsden. I thought I was the only one who was going to do that. But everyone grew up with his books when they were younger, and of course who in Australia DIDN'T see Tomorrow When the War Began last year?

Anyway, I may have missed it, but here are two recaps of the event for those who want to know.

For those who don't click through, John Marsden is not only a much-loved Australian author and educator, he ran camps for writers and teens who wanted to explore writing, and he even started his own school.

I love the below from Musings of Rationality, it just emphasizes the awesome of John and his crystal clear teaching style. Check it: John on how to write a vivid sentence.

"He enlightened us to what pertains to being a good writer opposed to a great writer. He spoke with wisdom and enthusiasm about the power of language; he workshopped a sentence for us.
This was a five minutes exercise where he explained to us the power of language & how it can transform something bland into something tantalising easily. He wrote the following sentence: 
We went to the beach. We had lunch. We went home.
From this sentence we were to identify the nouns.
We went to the beach. We had lunch. We went home.
Then with these nouns we were to substitute them with other more interesting nouns that befitted the sentence. This was the result:
We went to Bondi beach. We had a couple of burgers. We went Sam’s place.
Yes, the last sentence is not grammatically correct, however, we still had to identify the verbs within the sentence.
We went to Bondi beach. We had a couple of burgers. We went Sam’s place.
We did the same to the verbs as was done with the nouns.
We rode to Bondi beach. We grabbed a couple of burgers. We caught a bus to Sam’s place.
That is the completed sentence. A lot better than the initial product is it not? This exercise was used to demonstrate that an exuberant use of adverbs, adjectives are not always needed to create an eloquent piece."

Yup. It's that easy.

That's all I have for now. John Marsden, everybody. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Don’t Even Go There Do’s and Don’ts of Book Indexing

You know those lists of terminology and page numbers at the back of books (mostly nonfiction) which can be a Godsend when you know you saw something about Shared Psychosis or Unicorn Spit somewhere in that thousand page book but you have no clue where it was?
And man, for late night, last minute studying (Holla at me students!) indexes are a life saver!

But there are good indexes and bad indexes.

Here is a list of index problems guaranteed to drive readers bonkers.

Poor Use of Terminology 1: Say in a Recipe book there was this Apricot Tart you saw and want to make. So you look up Apricot. Not there. How about Tart? Not there. Um…Pie? Nope, not there either. Eventually you find it under Esmerelda’s Tasty Tart. Because that’s the part of the recipe you remember off the top of your head, right? Might as well look at the contents page for that one.

Poor Use of Terminology 2: Speaking of contents pages – indexes are not simply the contents page in alphabetical order. When looking through that car manual for how to change the tyre on your Kia, you might look up C for Change a tyre, T for Tyre, J for Jack, K for Kia…but then after scrutinizing every entry and just about giving up…you discover it under H. For How to change a tyre.

Inconsistent Use of Terminology: Eg. Employees and Staff both listed in the index. If both terms are used in the book, yet they mean the same thing, the indexer really should “For Employees, see Staff” and place all mentions of either terms in the one section as this means that readers looking up employees and readers looking up staff will be directed to the same information. How frustrating if you miss out on important information just because what you needed was under another word for the same thing?

Circular References: Finance: For Finance, see Funds. Funds: For Funds, see Finance. For the Wall, see Throwing this book

Long Strings of Page Numbers: Indexing every mention of the word in the book is not only annoying but unhelpful. Readers only want to be directed to meaningful references to the word. For instance when looking up crabs, the reader might find the section of the book on the evolution of crabs helpful. Similarly, the bit on the different types of crabs and where they can be found in the world could work. They will probably not find the throwaway comment that the author saw a crab on a beach once that helpful. Don’t index that.

When done well, like editing, you just don’t notice indexing, but there’s a lot of skill and creativity involved and I believe credit needs to go where credit is due. Thank you phantom GOOD Indexer for helping me find that page on Unicorn Spit. 

Tot siens,


Friday, March 11, 2011

Editing or Meddling?

There comes a time when a writer just has to stop.

I am revising a manuscript at the moment. I have gone through and made the big changes - added chapters, taken out chunks and then I put it away for two weeks so that I could read it with fresh eyes. Hopefully work out whether my changes have made it better or worse.
So I am reading it again, and making more changes, cutting out sentences and paragraphs, changing the odd word here and there.
This means I am going to have to read it again to see if I have made it better or worse. And in that read through I expect I am going to find sections to add and put back, remove or replace and I'll rinse and repeat with the whole process.
There has to be a point in which I decide enough is enough. I have faith that this is the best it can be. I've revised this MS a couple of times in the past and each time it gets better, so...sometimes I just don't know. When is enough enough?



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Happy Grammar Day! Look How Grammar Changes Everything.

March 4th was National Grammar Day in the U.S. of A and I just had to share my favourite example of how those pesky commas and full stops/periods can change the entire meaning of what you write. Not one WORD has been changed, just the placement of punctuation.
I wouldn't want to be John #2, let me tell ya. (Tee hee)
Dear John Letter #1
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours?
Dear John Letter #2
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

9 Questions Editors Ask When Reading Your Submission

Sue Hines, Trade Director from Allen & Unwin is looking for ways to say no. I’ve heard this before from other editors – there are just so many submissions and you can only publish so much. You can only read so much. It makes it easier if they can just pass on a project and move on to the next.

Sue visited NMIT Fairfield today and had much insight and many gems of advice to share, but what I know will be of most interest to my readers is this:

She asks herself nine questions as she reads new submissions. Are you ready?

1. Is this a good example of itself?
Is the way the writer is telling the story, unique? There are no unique stories, but there are original ways of saying old things.
2. How many copies do I think I could sell of this?

3.  How many copies should I print?
The title will not be released for a year so she needs to think ahead to the publishing climate then.

4.  Will this work best as a paperback or hardback?

5. What RRP should this be priced at? $19.99? $35.00?
The price impacts sales.

6. Can I convince Sales & Marketing that this is something we should publish?
Publishing is a team sport, it is not just up to a Commissioning Editor or Publisher to choose the next title. Everyone needs to agree.

7. How is this author likely to manage the publicity world?
Can this author do publicity? She can only guess at this, some quiet little wallflowers when given a microphone turn into stand-up comedians while some highly confident personalities freeze up in front of an audience. Publicity is essential – and the publicity department can help give authors tips if necessary.

8. Is this person the right person to publish on this subject?
Not only are publishers interested in what qualifications you have to tackle your subject matter authoratively, Allen & Unwin, among other publishers have been burned by fraudsters in the past, such as a memoir that was actually fictionalised.

9.  Are there other books like this?
The manuscript could fit as a part of a fad. There are always new fads and as soon as on book becomes popular there will be a slew of titles in the same genre appear. Eg. Da Vinci Code: Religious/cult thrillers. Eat Pray Love: Travelling romances. Twilight: Vampire Romance. Harry Potter: YA Wizards. You get the picture. Good timing can aid your submission make it to publication. But you can't really predict the next big thing. Writers and publishers wish we could though, am I right?

There you have it! Something worth thinking about when you submit your manuscript to publishers.



Sue is the Trade Director at Allen & Unwin, Sue started her publishing career at the independant publishing house McPhee Gribble. She was the managing editor during the period that the company was the powerhouse of Australian literary publishing and she worked with a range of fiction and non-fiction writers. She then moved to Reed Books to start their first paperback imprint and later went on to become the company's non-fiction and illustrated publisher, publishing many well-known authors during that time. In 1996 she moved to Allen & Unwin as the publisher of her own imprint and was appointed as trade publishing director in 2005.