Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In the News and Other Random Thoughts

I’ve had a crazy busy week. That’s what happens when you have an offer on the table. Yippee! So needless to say I’ve been negotiating, talking with editors and trying to keep up on my usual day-to-day activities. I wanted to pop in this afternoon with a list of things that have come to my attention today.

The first is that we’re saying farewell to Intern Lisa today and there's nothing good about that. Both Intern Lisa and Intern Jamie were absolutely amazing and I’m really impressed with the editorial eye each of them has. Very different, but very talented. So a warning to all of you editors out there. If either of them wants a publishing job after graduation next year I’ll be personally hounding you to give them a shot. I think we’ve found some real talent here and I know I’ll definitely miss them.

My second thought comes from an email I received this morning about The romance writing competition. I’ll admit that I had heard nothing about this until receiving the email, but from what I can tell the winner of this competition will receive a $5000 advance and publishing contract with Pocket Books, which sounds absolutely amazing, but I have to wonder how successful these types of contests really are for authors. Most authors, when getting a publishing deal, have had the opportunity to really feel the sting of rejection, polish their work and essentially when chosen they are chosen because an agent, an editor and an entire publishing staff is excited, enthusiastic and feel personally vested in making that author’s work shine. Does winning a competition for publication give you that same sort of chance? Or do most writers who win such a contest end up with one published book and then find out it’s back to the drawing board? I have never done a formal evaluation of this, but would be curious to know.

My third thought comes from an AP story on how much Americans read (I first got wind of this through) Media Bistro). According to the story 1 in 4 adults say they read no books last year. My first thought when hearing this has nothing to do with the future of the publishing industry or my career, but everything to do with sadness for those who went an entire year without exploring the world a book can open up for you. I have no idea how many books I read in a year. I guess if you don’t count manuscripts I probably read 2-3 books a month. If you count manuscripts, proposals and all the reading I do for work you’re talking a whole heck of a lot more. I just can’t imagine living without books.

And my final’s driving me crazy that blogspot was down this morning. Really! How are people supposed to learn from my witty antidotes?



Mark Terry said...

Steve Hamilton won the St. Martin's contest 6 or 7 years back and he's been very, very successful, but I rarely hear back about other winners. And it seems to me some years SMP claimed there were no winners, which I thought said something sort of interesting.

Linda C. McCabe said...


I have a data point for you. Granted it is only a single data point, but I know someone whose first novel was published via a publishing contest.

David Skibbins won a contest by St. Martin's Press for mystery novels by unpublished authors.

I asked him what he thought of the first contest when it was announced last winter and I saw several bloggers and message boards of writers and agents discussing the pros and cons having to accept the standard contract terms.

He didn't see a problem with it, since you can always negotiate your second book with an agent.

He now has three books in the Tarot Card Mystery series.

He's nice as well and is going to be a guest speaker for my writers club next month.


Etoiline said...

I don't have much of an opinion on the contests, but I have to say I am shocked at the percentage of those who didn't read a book last year. Earlier this year I did a book meme that ended up telling me that I read approximately 1200 books in the last ten years. I feel so sorry for those who haven't let their imagination loose among the pages of a book.

Caren Crane said...

The non-reading statistic is rather shocking. Sad, too. I have been a reader since I was a child and can't imagine not turning to a good book for entertainment. Then again, I am one of the few Americans who watch no TV--not a radical life statement or anything, I simply have no time or inclination.

As to the writing contest and whether it is a good thing, I do know of an American title runner-upn (not even the winner) who has gone on to contract many other books. Others are one-book wonders.

I also had a friend whose book was bought when the editor judged her entry in the final round of a contest. They had a slot to fill in the publication schedule and her book was a great fit. Unfortunately, she never sold another book to them. It seems the success of contest-related publication in general depends on the talent of the writer involved. Just like every other sale in publishing!

Jeff Savage said...

I can't imagine having to go an entire week without readinga book, let alone an entire year. But putting a positive spin on it 3/4s of the responadants had read a book. If someone had asked me how many adults read a book, I would have guessed it would be lucky to be 50%.

KateS said...

I'm actually not surprised by the reading statistic. My husband didn't pick a book up that wasn't Harry Potter for years. I thought I was lucky that I managed to get him into HP. He liked to read newspapers and sports news, but not books.

He made a New Year's resolution this year to read more, and has since read 25 books! For a man who professed to hate to read, he sure surprised me (and himself!)!

Anonymous said...

Two things. I just entered the Gather contest and hope the results are a whoohoo and not an oops.

I can't imagine not reading. I read every day--without fail. As do both my husband and my daughter. We joke that we single handedly keep B&N and Borders in business.

I too, feel very sorry for those who don't read. So many worlds are lost to them.


Sandra Cormier said...

I'm sure at least a few of the 75% who read will take up the slack by reading multiple books.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that reading statistic before. You’re right, it’s saddening. I can’t imagine going an entire year without reading a book.

Kate Douglas said...

Actually, Jessica, it's okay that only one in four adults read a book a year...I figure I read enough to make up for their lack. Even with my writing schedule, I rarely read LESS than a book a week, generally more. Have read seven in the past two weeks and that's with research on an upcoming series...some are readers, some aren't. I cannot IMAGINE life without books.

K J Gillenwater said...

I thought the 1 in 4 was shocking, too. And sad. However, there are people who just don't sit still long enough to do more than read the paper...if that.

I know people who HATE going to the movies, watch very little TV, and don't read. They see it as 'wasting time.'

So, I don't think they were ever readers and never will be. Whereas some people read several books a week or more.

I fall into 'above average.' I read at least 2 books a month...depends on how long the book is and how much I like it. I would probably read even more if I didn't have children to distract me. :-)

What I would have liked was some comparison data. Has this statistic changed at all in the last 50 years? Something like that.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a world without books! That is what it is for that one in four that doesn't read. They have to schedule their vacations, make flight arrangements, hotel reservations, plan for who will feed the dog...when all they have to do is pick up a book, find that cozy chair and enter a new world with the turn of each page...and with each new story.
When I'm not buried in medical reports, and not working on my own books, I read. I have always loved books, hoarded books, valued books...I just can't imagine someone, by choice, missing out on the world that books have to offer.


Laura K. Curtis said...

Some contests are really worthwhile. Take St. Martins Press, which runs 3 contests a year in the mystery genre. But is not St. Martins. They've been trying this in one form or another for over a year now, and I haven't heard word one about any of the winners. Miss Snark used to evaluate contests; just one of the services she provided that unpublished authors will miss!

As to the one-in-four statistic...back when I used to teach middle school, someone published a statistic that said the average adult read seven books a year. My studenst said, in horror, "voluntarily??"

My husband reads two books a year. He starts one when we are on vacation (we take two one-week vacations a year), and finishes it when we get home. On that same vacation, I bring (and I am not exaggerating) a separate carry-on bag for the books I carry!

On the other hand, he reads a ton of magazines and online stuff I don't even look at.

And I had to laugh at your Freudian slip. I promise, I don't think of your anecdotes as "literary antidotes!"

Gina Robinson said...

My good friend and criqique partner, Gerri Russell, won the Dorchester/RT American Title II competition last year. Winning has been fabulous for Gerri. Her first book, The Warrior Trainer, came out to wonderful reviews this past January. They sent her on a four city book tour, which is practically unheard of for a first time romance author. Her name is gigantic on the cover, and both her name and the title are embossed in gold. Her second book, Warrior's Bride, comes out in October and is already getting rave reviews. Dorchester seems very enthusiastic about Gerri. I'd say the contest launched her career. And the publicity she got from the contest, along with the fan support she generated for her book was simply invaluable.

Another local author won the Dell Diamond Debut contest years ago and has been consistently and successfully publishing since.

On the flipside, I know of others who, like Caren said, are one book wonders. But I also know of people who got published the traditional way, not through a contest, who are one book wonders. Success in this depends on so many factors.