Monday, February 27, 2012

Style Over Substance

Thinking about last night's Oscars, I can't decide whether the sub-title should be:

Style Over Substance
Old People Rule! or
Behold the Power of Harvey Weinstein

I was a little underwhelmed with the Oscars last night and I'm a huge Oscar fan. Even the years that most people don't like it, I usually do. Maybe I was just distracted about other things -- like coming up with a new title for my new book and series -- so I only half watched.

I really enjoyed both The Artist and Hugo when I saw them, but neither were "best picture" kind of movies for me. And I really don't think The Artist would have gotten so much attention without the campaigning by the Weinsteins. I caught part of The Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday night and The Artist swept those too, so the Oscars felt like a re-run.

Hugo swept all the more arty and tech awards. That film for me was interesting in that it was the best use of 3-D that I've seen (maybe including Avatar?) and it was truly beautiful to watch... But the story didn't work for me. It wasn't tight enough. It didn't know whether it was a story about a kid or a story about an old man or a documentary on silent films. The last third or so of that movie seemed like Scorsese's self-indulgence. Him caring more about his interests than caring about the audience or about telling a good story...

And if we're only judging based on whether a movie was beautiful to watch, I'd vote for The Tree of Life, which was thought provoking as well as mesmerizingly beautiful to watch. But whatever. That film was never going to win. Too weird and not enough people saw it.

I think for me, some of my favorite movies this year weren't even nominated... Drive, Melancholia, Martha Marcy Mae Marlene... Hmmm... What else did I love? I need to start blogging about movies again so I don't forget.

Onto The Artist. I loved this movie when I saw it. Truly delightful. But I saw it before all the award season buzz and so didn't really think about it critically and went in with low expectations. But I did enjoy my time in the theatre and fell in love with that little dog. :)

I think ultimately it was the lack of surprises that bothered me about the Oscars. The only possible "upset" was Jean Dejardins winning over Clooney, but since it was clear by that point that The Artist was going to sweep all the major awards, it didn't feel like an upset. A brief aside... I did love how the director of that movie spoke about his wife and the female star during his acceptance speech. Especially since she was kind of passed over in favor of Dejardins in all the awards for no reason that makes any sense to me... Not that I would have put her in the same league with the performances in the best actress category... (Streep, Close, Williams, Davies, Mara) but sitting side-by-side, I don't see why Dejardins' performance was acknowledged and not hers...


I did love seeing Christopher Plummer win an Oscar. (Go Canada) Cirque du Soleil is always impressive. (Go Canada again.)  Meryl Streep was so humble and gracious. And Octavia Spencer was thrilled to tears and so sweet. And I loved the Scorsese drinking game joke... (I want to be best friends with those women.) And I was moderately amused by Ben Stiller being the straight guy to Emma Stone. (That was fearless on her part. Not sure how well it went over but -- fearless!)

But other than that, I was kinda bored.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Roller Coaster Week

No one ever said publishing was for the faint of heart but boy, some weeks can be crazier than others. The highs! The lows...
Do you want the good news first or the bad? I'll start with bad...

Those of you who follow publishing news will no doubt have read that the big chain book stores in North America recently announced that they will no longer carry books produced by Amazon Publishing in their physical stores. That means they won't carry some upcoming celebrity memoirs, James Franco's new novel, Deepak Chopra's new book, #1 NYT Bestselling non-fiction author Tim Ferriss's new books... or my upcoming YA trilogy, Deviants.

Some will say that it serves Amazon right. That a retailer has no business being a publisher. Or that their business tactics of late have been bullying. While I agree that Amazon has been throwing its considerable weight around, I do think some of the reactions have been at tad hypocritical. Certainly some of the vitriol I've read in the blogosphere has been.

It's amusing how short people's memories seem to be about who's David and who's Goliath in the publishing business. It wasn't long ago that everyone in the industry was accusing the big chain stores, which many are now rallying behind, of being bullies with unreasonable demands about discounts and returns that publishers claimed would put them out of business. And everyone was up in arms about how the chains were putting the indie book stores out of business.

Let's fact it... it wasn't long ago that the publishing industry was excited about the little tech company from Seattle who was giving the industry another way to get books into the hands of readers.

(And I won't even talk about the fact that Amazon sells the books published by B&N's publisher--Sterling Books--or that B&N also has exclusive titles and editions.)

The monopoly accusations made by some authors make me shake my head too. It's been a few years since I studied economics but if memory serves, what Amazon is doing is called vertical integration, different from a monopoly, and since B&N is pretty much the only game in town in terms of physical book stores now (along with Indigo Books in Canada) who has the monopoly? What it seems to me is going on now, is that for decades the publishing industry has been an oligopoly (a few entities dominating an industry) and Amazon is daring to threaten that oligopoly, to change industry practices, and take a bigger piece of the market.


I love book stores. Big chain ones with their variety and coffee shops. Indies with their customer service and ambiance. And when my first books came out last year it was a thrill to see them on bookstore shelves. I do not want to see book stores go under. But who's going to be hurt by this move the brick and mortar stores are making? For the most part, it won't be Amazon--they've got deep pockets--it will be their authors. Sure, if this move keeps more big-name authors from moving away from the Big Six to Amazon Publishing the strategy might hurt Amazon too but if the dominating  brick & mortar retail chain is refusing to carry a publisher's books out-of-hand, regardless of each book's merit or commercial appeal, who is being the bully?

Putting my business-cap on, I think what it boils down to is that while any retailer has the right to choose what merchandise it wants to carry, and I get why they might not like the taste or feel of selling their competitors products, I don't understand why a retailer would want to force customers to go to their competitor to buy that product. A fan of Tim Ferriss, for example, who may have never bought anything at Amazon before, may now become their regular customer, if it's the only place he/she can find Ferriss's new book. If that customer has a positive shopping experience, well, that customer may decide to mostly shop at Amazon in the future.

Are bookstores simply trying to push Amazon into making their e-book titles available in Nook and Kobo formats? If so, I hope the gambit pays off because I'd like my books to be available to as many readers as possible in whatever format they prefer.

In my hopes and dreams, Amazon will make their books available across all digital platforms and the brick and mortar stores will reverse their decisions.

Whether any of these companies are acting out of smart business decisions or fear or spite, I feel like my getting into the debate risks drawing attention to what feels like pettiness--mud slinging and sandbox fights--and I like to stay out of that kind of thing when I can. But at the same time, as a newly contracted Amazon Publishing author, I couldn't keep silent. I figured friends and readers would be wondering how I feel about the whole thing.

And how do I feel? Like a kid whose parents are fighting. I just want them to stop.

From an author's perspective, it sucks to hear that your books will not be in these big chain stores, and sucks even more to have that decision be based, not on your books' merit or commercial appeal but on who published them. (Yes, I know that authors with smaller publishers and self-published titles have been suffering this for years but those reasons made sense to me as they were about distribution logistics and return issues...)

Last week an editor of a book review site, Book Riot, described a dilemma she faced when she was about to give a book she'd loved a positive review--before realizing the book was from the Amazon Publishing ecosystem. Her post is interesting. She made me feel better and worse all at once... I knew having reviewers refuse to read my books, or be predisposed to hate them, and not having the books stocked in some brick and mortar stores were risks I was taking when I chose Amazon as my publisher. (Yes, they chose me but I also chose them).

I went into this with my eyes (mostly) open. And no matter who your publisher is, there's never any certainty that the big chains or indies will carry your books. No guarantee you'll get reviews, negative or positive. I knew there would be pros and cons to choosing Amazon as a publisher, and I still hope the benefits of my choosing Amazon Publishing will outweigh this newly revealed downside--they are, after all, good at getting books in front of the right readers--but it's impossible to even guess at this point. Time will tell. Right now, hearing this news simply sucks.

Did you forget I promised you good news, too?

The same week these worrying press releases came out, I also got some fantastic news!!!

I got a fabulous quote for Deviants from a #1 NYT Bestselling author! Woo hoo!

Quote to be revealed at a future date when I feel more like celebrating. :)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

SCBWI vs. RWA Cage Match

What are the similarities and differences between these two writers' organizations' big national conferences?

I discuss today over at my group blog Drunk Writer Talk.

(Aside) The first manuscript I ever wrote was a romance, as was the second, which I abandoned before revising, having decided that romance wasn't my genre. And while I made that decision back in 2003, I've remained a member of RWA because I love the organization and the friends I've made there.

Now I have a new love... SCBWI. (end of aside)

In my post, I compare the two conferences.

Another difference I thought of after I posted is: free books.

At RWA's National conference you end up with at least 10 free books without even trying (you get them when you register and at each keynote) and by trying you can end up with boxes and boxes and boxes of free books. The big six (and smaller) publishers all host free book signings for their authors. Also the publishers give away at least one title (usually more than one book) for each all of the keynote speakers. (The books are on your chair when you go into the room.)

RWA also has a HUGE author signing open to the general public, where the books are donated by the publishers, and any published member attending the conference can sign. It's HUGE. Hundreds and hundreds of authors signing. And last summer, when it was held at the Marriott in Times Square, the line started hours in advance, trailed through the entire hotel, snaked around the driveway and down the street. It was my first time signing, with Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and I have to say it was quite a thrill. Quite a few of the younger teens who came up to ask me to sign books had clearly been given lists of authors they were allowed to talk to/buy from by their mothers. :) Not surprising given the range of authors signing, from well, me (with a young-skewing YA) to full-on erotica novels.

If my comparison had been scoring based on getting books, or opportunities for published authors to get their books into the hands of readers, RWA would win hands down. But from my perspective as an author and conference attendee, I'm not sure I could pick a clear winner.

While I love the free books I get at RWA... I often end up donating them to a library or hospital, or giving them away to friends, and I kind of liked not needing another suitcase to go home. :)

RWA Home Page

SCBWI Home Page

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