Traditional Publishing

Maggie Shipstead on Dealing with Mistakes in Writing – Sunday May 29, 2022

Maybe five years ago I read a novel in which a man drowns in a lake, and, a few minutes later, his body is found floating on the water’s surface.

If any of my writer friends are reading this, they’re probably groaning because they’ve heard me harp on this example before. What can I say? Sometimes I’m irritating and pedantic. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t make any sense for that body to float. If bodies were inherently buoyant, no one would ever drown. For that scenario to work, the man’s lungs would have filled with water, pulling him under and killing him, and then, almost immediately, something — the condition of death? — would have sent his body rocketing back up to the surface, where, despite being heavier now than before, he floated. No. Bodies float because gases of decomposition eventually lift them. The process takes time: at least a couple days even in relatively warm, shallow water, longer in colder, deeper water. Many bodies never surface at all. But the image of the floating body is pervasive in our culture and our entertainment (“We’ve got a floater,” says one TV cop to another), so familiar that a writer may skip directly from drowning to floating without stopping to think.

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The one line that's missing from all the writing advice – Tuesday May 24, 2022

I started writing as an adult in 2009. I’d scribbled many poems and “novels” as a child and teen, but I had a West Wing-based epiphany in my early 30s (it’s a long story) and started writing seriously then.

Alongside the joy of getting to know my characters and daydreaming a plot into existence, I also read a lot of books on the craft of writing. Studying, I could do. I know school isn’t for everyone, and that I benefit from a lot of white and neurotypical privilege, but I loved school. Looking back now, I think part of what I loved about it was the (mostly) reliable nature of it. I grew up in Belgium in the 1980s, and there was a lot of listening to teachers, making notes neatly in my exercise books, learning things by heart for tests and reciting them at the chalkboard. I was good at following rules, and I liked the fact that a certain kind of input meant a certain kind of mostly predictable output.

I knew, of course, that art is less predictable than that. It was also apparent early on as I started writing that I thought outside the box of what fiction, at least British and American fiction, requires to be considered publishable. But still, if pressed, I would have said that learning my craft and persevering would eventually result in publication. I knew that it might be a long road (five years, maybe!), but if I learned about how to submit to agents, I would eventually find my place in the publishing world.

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Little magazines in Instagram era, a tete-a-tete with independent writer Subhankar Das – Monday May 23, 2022

Welcome to the world of little magazines, mimeo editors, outlaw poets, chapbooks and experimental writing. IBNS caught up with Subhankar Das, an independent writer, literary activist, poet, blogger, publisher and film producer, to answer some of the questions pertaining to the future of little magazines and small publications in the era of Instagram.

The Little Magazines movement is a world of its own where unknown writers, unpublished poets and unsung litterateurs and activists share their literary exertions and thoughts with well-knit think alike groups spread across the globe.

But how is this child of the mimeograph revolution of the 60s and 70s coping up with the ever-evolving digital universe where the rules of publication and the way we share information have vastly changed. Is digital revolution an existential threat to Little Magazines or will it bring boundless opportunities and unlock limitless creativity?

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A Conversation About Music, Memory, and the Topographies of Writing – Saturday May 21, 2022

In November of 2019, just months before COVID hit, I met Mesha Maren in person at the Miami Book Festival, in what would turn out to be my last in-person event for a while. Both of us had debut novels out that year, and a few months prior to that meeting Mesha had interviewed me for the Chicago Review of Books. Having a debut novel when you aren’t friends with many writers or people in publishing can be daunting and lonely if you’re on tour, so I was delighted when Mesha reached out to meet up. While having dinner, I learned that Mesha had written a novel that took place on the border, and I don’t recall whether I shared that I was finishing what would become my story collection Valleyesque.

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Agents are feeling the burnout too – Tuesday May 17, 2022

Recent reporting on ’industry-wide burnout’ focused on editors, but agents are struggling with equally unsustainable pressures.

When I first started operating as an agent, I remember complaining to a colleague about my lack of work. I sat on their couch, voicing my panic because I had zero list, no emails, no clients and no meetings. I said to them, how anxious it made me to have so much free time when I was building my list and how much I hated not being ferociously busy. And they gave me a pitying look and said gently, that there would come a day very soon when I would regret every single word I had just said.

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Kathy Lette: ‘Older women buy most books so why won’t publishers give them what they want?’ – Sunday May 15, 2022

The author, whose books have sold 573,275 physical copies in the UK since 1998 believes literature is failing to keep up with the phenomenon of women aging disgracefully

Older women are easily the biggest consumers of fiction. So why is it so hard for an internationally best-selling author to get novels about them published?

That’s the conundrum that Kathy Lette says she has faced. The author, who helped invent “chick lit”, has used an interview with i to reveal the hard time she has had getting publishers to accept fiction about menopausal women who are enjoying life.

“I’m struggling to get publishers interested in books that celebrate older women in a positive way,” she says. “They’re saying, ‘I don’t know if there’s a market for this.’

“If you’re not the hot, young new thing, they’re reluctant to think that you have an audience out there. But, of course, it’s older women who buy books.”

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How This Literary Agent Built An Established Agency, Shares Best Practices For Signing A Contract – Sunday May 15, 2022

One area of business where women dominate the statistics is a sector of the publishing industry. As a result, the number of female literary agents has steadily increased over time. According to Zippia, 58.5% of agents are women. The publishing landscape has changed with the advancement of technology, making self-publishing more accessible and streamlined. These changes impact the desire, the need and the chances of signing with a literary agent. Even though more authors are turning to print-on-demand options to publish their books, traditional publishing still has prestige. It’s been reported that the odds of working with a literary agent are 1 in 6,000, based on the number of inquiries one receives and the number of new authors the agent is looking to sign for the year.

For over two decades, Jennifer Unter, founder of the Unter Agency, has helped new authors land deals with publishing houses. As a respected agent within the industry, she speaks at conferences around the country. Most recently, she’s been asked to participate in The Atlanta Writers Conference in November. Her clients have won many awards, including Indie Next, Reading the West Award, Bank Street Best Book of the Year Award and Green Earth Book Award. Although she expands her roster of authors annually, she’s strategic in her selection.

“A lot of authors look at what’s happening with the biggest players, the best sellers or even the very popular series,” Unter shares. “They say, ‘Oh, well, Penguin Random House is doing this for that person. Why wouldn’t they do that for me?’ They don’t realize how many books are published, how many authors really get little to no publicity, and how much they have to do themselves. So the really successful authors are the ones who come in knowing that and have a platform and know-how to be on social media and play that game in a good way. The ones who think things are being handed to them are the ones who are going to not have a realistic expectation of what publishing is like.”

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You’ll want to vomit, cry, die or sleep forever: what happens when you finish writing your book – Friday May 13, 2022

One of my main fears before submitting a book is that I will die in the hours before the deadline, and all the work I will have done will be for nothing because the publisher will only have an outline and the completed book itself will remain on a password-protected hard drive and ultimately buried in landfill.

I have long associated handing in a book and dying because the two seemed connected on some subterranean, unconscious level. Finishing a major project is a form of death – something has ended. But finishing is not something you hear much about in all the short courses, podcasts, MFAs, online articles and books on the creative process.

It’s all about starting, developing characters, a writing routine, pitching to agents and marketing. But you never get told about the end, about the toll on body and brain cells of the work, and those strange weeks that follow the handing in of a manuscript where you gradually try and re-enter the world, often with the awkward gait of a newborn foal, but the aching back, neck, shoulders and arms of a pit labourer.

After I handed in my manuscript, the following 24 hours were fraught. I left my phone at Southern Cross Station and my laptop in a restaurant, and then once my phone had been retrieved, I lost it again. Two weeks on and I still feel like I’m in some sort of twilight zone, not quite reintegrated with the world.

So what happens when you finish a book?

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A Brutal—and True—Piece of Writing Advice from Toni Morrison – Friday May 13, 2022

The very first time I saw Toni Morrison in person was at an event in Boston, at a church, along with hundreds of people. The Beloved tour. I attended as a reader, as a Morrison fan. I’d had plenty of reader-only experience with books, but I knew next to nothing formal about writing then. Reading as a writer is a higher calling, and a whole different world. I had no writing tools at the time, though I did have some facility; I loved words—but the tools you need to write stack up and can be complicated. I could identify and define imagination, but I did not know the concepts of setting or drama or scene. I knew that language was critical, but how few words I knew then! I was hungry, eager, reaching—but I was ignorant of exactly what writers needed to know and do.

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Is there a secret to writing a bestselling book? – Friday May 13, 2022

How do I write thee? Let me count the ways … no, there are too many to count. Every writer has made their own journey, and no two are quite alike. So how can you possibly teach anyone how to write, say, a novel?

Despite the difficulties, there have probably never been so many writing courses and guides on offer, and people eager to take them up. Two of the latest books by Australian writers are perfect illustrations of how different writing advice can be. Both are eminently absorbing, encouraging and inspiring for the novice. In other ways, they are poles apart.

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