Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books

A little late to post this, but check out my contribution to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Shopping Guide: Recession Edition

With more government bailouts, more people losing their jobs and homes and more panic spreading across the nation, it's pretty hard to think about the approaching holidays. Most years, we'd be gearing up for the after-Thanksgiving sales, strategizing how to hit as many stores as possible for the early bird deals. Now, people are scaling back, not buying the extravagant gifts they did last year.

But there is one thoughtful gift that won't break the bank: a book. Giving books this holiday doesn't only support authors, the publishing houses and your local booksellers. A book is the perfect way to show people you put thought into their present and reading is the perfect activity for holiday traveling or being holed up on snowy winter days. And so I offer my recommendations for every person on your holiday shopping list:

Gift For: Your father who doesn't read anything except the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the occasional presidential biography.

Gift For: Your mother who always reads the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners and who has never missed an Oprah Pick:

Gift For: Your school age sister, niece or cousin who's going through a goth phase:

Gift For: Your high school brother, nephew, or cousin who thinks reading is stupid:

Gift For: Your Grandpa who loves watching Law and Order and CSI:

Gift For: Your uncle who does a lot of business traveling and enjoys "quick reads":

Gift For: Your friend from Art School who's into "weird shit":

Note: Because a lot of these books aren't my personal preference, many of them I haven't read. The books marked with a ** are those that I have read and can truly recommend. The others are just suggestions based on the opinions of others.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Than a Writer

I recently finished a non-fiction book proposal, something that is completely different than what I usually write. It was definitely an eye-opening, learning experience and it made me realize how being a writer isn't just about putting words on a page or telling a story. All writers are, or at least should be, the following:

Problem Solvers. If you're writing fiction, your job is to get your characters into jams and then get them out of it. Crichton created Jurassic Park, but then he had to figure out a way to get his main characters out alive. If you're writing non-fiction, you're usually addressing a problem in today's society and providing an answer. Textbooks provide answers to research questions, Self-Help books solve people's personal problems, etc. If there is no problem to solve, there generally isn't a book to write.

Sales People. Writers don't just have to sell their book to readers, they also have to sell it to agents, editors, and reviewers. And once your published, your publisher is going to expect you to sell, sell, sell, market, market, market. You may be a wonderful storyteller, but if you can't sell your story, your story won't get sold.

Small Business Owners. Whether you do it full time or part time, being a writer is owning a small business. You have to cover your own health insurance, pay extra taxes, and move with the ups and downs of good months and bad months. You have to think about sales, about budget, advertising, about bringing in new business and maintaining the business you have. You get to work in your pajamas and make shit up for a living, but maintaining the financial/administrative side is what separates the writers from the dilettantes.

Translators. This is especially true for freelancers, but also applies to novelists. As writers, it is our job to translate an idea to the page and make it understandable. As a freelancer, you may get a press packet that you have to boil down into 200 words or less. A reviewer has to convey the essence of a 300 page book in about 300 words. A novelist has to mold and shape an idea into something that is easy to follow and understand. Writers translate ideas and information to make them more accessible.

Politicians. I may be stretching it with this one, but hear me out. In publishing, whether it be magazines, newspapers or novels, there are plenty of politics, plenty of games that have to be played. You have to schmooze editors, other authors, talk to people in a way that gets you what you want. You have to present yourself in a likeable, professional way, be well spoken and thoughtful, and of course, have a platform. You should know how to shake hands and work a room. Hopefully, you're slightly more honest than the DC bigwigs, but the better politician you are, the more successful you'll be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Panic Over

There are many stressful experiences for writers: a looming book deadline, negotiating a contract, reading the first batch of reviews. But I am certain there is one stresser that outbeats all of them, one that I had the pleasure of experiencing this weekend: a computer virus.

If you're Facebook friends with me and you got that suspicious message from me on Friday, I'm sorry, and extra forgiveness if you opened it thinking, "Dana wouldn't send me anything suspicious" and got the virus yourself. Once your infected, the blasted thing sends messages to all your friends, from you, telling you to click on a link. I got a message from my friend, I clicked, and thus began the panicked, stressed out, ulcer-and-gray-hair-inducing weekend.

Last week I read a post about the importance of backing up. I thought it was a good post and I was proud of myself that I do most of those things. I save everything to a USB and e-mail myself the important documents once a week. But like I said, this happened on Friday, pre-back up.

Thankfully, I caught it in time and thanks to my trusty anti-virus, anti-spyware, the helpful people at Microsoft and a half bottle of tequila, I'm back online and all my files seem to be in tact. But I could have just as easily lost a lot of work. A whole week's worth of writing, gone. So please, go to Joe's blog, read what he has to say about all the ways you can avoid losing your writing. Don't think you're immune. I have an anti-virus, I have a firewall, I don't open strange e-mails from people I don't know, and yet, I still managed to get a virus. I guess I could always go Mac...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

This just in via Sarah Weinman: Bestselling author, Michael Crichton, has died at the age of 66 after a battle with cancer. Very unexpected and very sad.