Paths to Publishing – Melissa Snark

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The Snarkology’s own Melissa Snark talks candidly about her decision to finance her self-published audiobook A Cat’s Tale, once she had the rights back from the previous e-publisher. Audiobooks are a fast-growing but still far less saturated market for romance subgenres…worth any author’s serious consideration.

Melissa paid upfront for some serious narrative and sound-editing talent, but other options are available to authors willing to split their royalties. Follow the link above to learn more!

I need a word, please

<Takes a deep breath.>

I need a word to describe the feeling I got when someone I only vaguely know (from a large genre marketing site, where we exchange no more than pleasantries) announced proudly they’ve just had their first book published, and I was really happy for them, until I looked up the book on Amazon and realized it’s been published by some crappy little small press that can’t edit and can’t market, and has pages of cautions warning as such on Preditors & Editors, Hi Piers, and AbsoluteWrite, and most of their already-published authors use whiny excuses for low sales…but it’s not a vanity press, so I can at least not knock my not-friend’s judgement on that.


The word isn’t schadenfreude, because I’m deriving no pleasure at all from what I suspect is this person’s impending misfortune. I can’t warn this person, because then I sound like an elitist buzzkill with an axe to grind against poor, scrappy little start-up indie publishers.

And I’m not that person. I adore scrappy indie start-up publishers – if they’re competent about it. Most don’t seem to be. This particular publisher has been around long enough it should have shaken all the loose bits into place, yet it still has distressingly low sales, loose acceptance guidelines, the unrealistic expectation of paying its editors and artists through royalties alone, and a bunch of other warning signs.

Signs the other author has been around long enough in the marketing group to at least have HEARD ABOUT.

So what I’m going to do is stay silent, and offer comforting platitudes a year from now when this person is ranting about how they only sold ten copies or less of their magnum opus, can’t get their rights back, and is an online flamewar with the owner/editor/still-loyal authors.

I’d like to think the applicable word is ‘practical’ rather than ‘cowardly’, because I recognize I can do nothing at this stage.

Paths to Publishing – Martha O’Sullivan

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Martha O’Sullivan’s love affair with romance began when she was a child, finishing library books’ unsatisfactory endings in her head. A teenage trip to Lake Tahoe, a solid grounding in technical writing and journalism, and seven years of solitary effort led her to write her first book and the sequels continuing it. All before publication – she says her first novel must have been rejected ‘what felt like 100 times.’

But she kept going.

Read the rest of Martha’s journey today, over on the Snarkology blog. She has some tips for new authors I wish I’d known, way back when.

The Rosie Project: fail

I tend not to read much commercial mainstream fiction, for many reasons. I certainly avoid it if the Hype Machine insists I read it. So I was unfamiliar with ‘The Rosie Project’ until this morning.

I can’t give a full review of a story unless I read all of it, and I managed only a few sample chapters online. So this is not a review. 

This is an observation. 

I’ve seen better portrayals of likely autism-spectrum characters on ‘Royal Pains’ (Dr. Jeremiah Sacani) and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (Sheldon Cooper –  upon whom Rosie’s male protagonist appears to be based.) 

I’m not surprised by the rumor this was a screenplay before it was a book, or that it’s going to be a movie soon. As a chick-flick in manuscript form, I’m sure it’s reasonably enjoyable beach or airport reading. As a movie it will be the same. 

It is not a manual for real-life friendship or romantic relationships with people anywhere on the autism spectrum, any more than ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a safe, sane & consensual manual for BDSM lifestyle practices.

So, for the readers who acquired life lessons from ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – don’t. Just don’t. Don’t chase after that geeky, charming, painfully reserved, didactic, and fussy engineer/doctor/scientist/whatever and expect him or her to change according to your whims. If they really have Asperger’s, all you are saying to them is: “I hate one of the bedrock parts of your personality, the thing that you probably cannot change at all. And I won’t love you unless you do, or at least try.”

Yeah, try that.


Paths to Publishing – Dixie Hart

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Happy Friday! Join Dixie Hart on the Snarkology blog, for a candid and inspirational tale of wanderlust, travel, exotic locales, and fearless risk-taking – all of which Dixie distills into a second career in self-published non-fiction and romance.

I won’t give the whole story away, but you should listen to Dixie: “…Sometimes the willingness to risk can end up looking like luck.”

Paths to Publishing – Racheline Maltese

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C’mon over on the Snarkology blog, and visit with Racheline Maltese.

When she and her co-author Erin McRae jumped into the LGBTQ+ Romance niche market, they already had publishing experience in poetry and short SFF fiction, as well as long- and short-form nonfiction.

Their path to publication had some hitches: unlearning some ‘stuffy’ professional habits from their previous genres, re-tooling editorial expectations learned in non-fiction publishing, and being aware of the unique preferences of the M/M romance readership.

Their first M/M romance novel arrived from Torquere Books in 2014, to great reviews, and their second novel in the series is coming out soon.

One of Erin’s comments really stands out as sound advice/thought exercise for authors joining the M/M romance market from other genres:

“As people who have read more gay literature than gay romance, we weren’t necessarily aware of the likes and dislikes of much of the M/M romance community when it came to narrative items like bisexuality and polyamory. While knowing these things earlier wouldn’t have changed the story we wanted to write*, they would have changed how we marketed our book to publishers and readers earlier on in the process.” **

* My emphasis. As the M/M romance genre ‘grows up’ and becomes more and more professionally published and marketed, I hope that more authors opt for fearless original choices instead of those based only in fan-service customs. I hope that more readers give them a chance. One huge ongoing debate/ argument/screaming trollfest in M/M romance pits authors and readers only backing M/M stories (for whatever creative or personal reason), vs those who write broader romances including bisexuality and polyamory.

** The key to bridging those divides is probably the same response that Racheline and Erin noted: more-targeted and clarified marketing to publishers and readers. Love is love, and good writing is good writing – as I’ve found in many fan fiction pairings/groupings. When readers trust that authors know what they’re doing with the established tropes, those authors get more respect and leeway when they try something different.

Paths to Publishing – Sydney St. Claire

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The Snarkology blog catches up to author Sydney St. Claire today, as she shares her by-the-bootstraps journey to publication, and the changes she’s noticed in the publishing industry since the pre-Internet days.

Her writing career started when she wrote a single compelling scene in a genre she loved to read – Native American romance – and made the mistake of asking the characters ‘Why?’ and ‘What happened next?’

(First rule of plot-bunnies: if you feed them, they never go away. And they invite all their friends…)


Night Flight: neighborhood

Say hello to part of a new fiber art book, which I may actually finish this year:

Night flight neighborhood for blog

As I mentioned in this post last year, back in 2009 I was insane enough to decide that, yes, I could make a pop-up book out of fabric.

Most artists make pop-up or fold-out books out of paper, because paper’s qualities are so perfect for thin, intricate, stiff-yet-flexible design elements. Here’s one master at her craft, Ingrid Siliakus, showing what paper does best.

I rarely work with paper (2 books out of over 200, I think). Carved, burned, and painted wood and leather, sure. For thirty years, fiber art sculptures have been one of my enduring art obsessions. For seventeen years, I’ve been turning them into one-of-a-kind book art pieces.

Three-dimensional fiber-fold sculptures are a lot trickier than I’d guessed. There were way too many unsuccessful test runs in cardboard and tape. I had to go back to some old couture seaming techniques to get the right structure. By its nature, cloth has a thicker, softer look than paper, but that can give a richly organic feel, too.

One of the major stalls was creating just the right short poem to summarize the whole work. I managed that last night, in sixteen words. (Short, because I will hand-embroider only so many words before my hands and brain rebel. My lottery daydream isn’t a sportscar, but a programmable embroidery machine.)

‘Neighborhood’ is one fold-out portion of ‘Night Flight’, shown before backing, edging, more beadwork, and the creases steamed and sewed in place. It’s an affectionate, slightly-voyeuristic abstraction of an average American city suburb seen at dusk, from above.

The panel is approx 16.5″ x 9.5″. Materials: dark blue suit-weight cotton twill, with appliques of linen, cotton batik, orange-purple silk, decorative and structural machine seams, and hundreds of glass beads in an orange/blue/iridescent gray colorway.

The final closed dimensions of ‘Night Flight’ will probably be 10″ x 4.5″ x 1.75″ – fairly big, for my work. I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

When tl;dr annoys me

Short primer here on the meme of Too Long; Didn’t Read.

Got that? <Takes deep breath.> Okay, then.

There’s a funny, helpful, snarky meme out in the world right now, dating back over a decade. Sometimes it’s used to signify a short summary of a longer article, for reader convenience. That’s fine. Sometimes it’s used to call out an excessively long online post, in a more-or-less friendly way. That’s fine too. I’ve written my share of those.

Where tl;dr gets my hackles up is when I see it in a book or article review, often paired with ‘Dropped’ or ‘Did Not Finish’. Often written in an airy context, as if the reviewer wasn’t that invested in the project to begin with, and had just found something more interesting, like their toenails.

Well, excuuuuuuuuse me for finding that unbelievably annoying. Both as a writer and a reader.

It’s disrespectful not only to the author, but to the other readers who did manage to navigate the book/story/article/Wiki entry/bus map.

It’s another thinly-disguised morsel of indulgent anti-intellectualism, possibly worse than functional illiteracy. The person who writes tl;dr in a review knows how to read. They just choose not to. Then celebrate their laziness as some kind of efficiency.

I have stopped reading books and whole series before. But I don’t boast about it, because that’s a sad development for me. A story that cannot entertain me and make me care about it? Wow, that’s bad. I’m easy – I’ll browse Wikipedia and The Silmarillion for fun. I love books, and I want to finish each one I open. It’s taken me decades to be comfortable stopping partway through, and never returning.

That’s why I’m delighted with sample texts online. A chapter or two in, and I can usually tell if the rest is worthwhile. Samples save me time, and the effort of reviewing something that may not be worth giving it a one-star rating.

Ironically enough, tl;dr reviewers also save me time, when I go look at the books they *did* finish. My experience has been that I probably won’t like them, either.

Romance conference at the Library of Congress*

Aww, I’m really sad that this two-day conference is all the way across the country from me.

But if any romance readers or writers are going to be near the Washington, D.C. area in mid-February, it might be worth the time to register:

“What Is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age” will be held at the US Library of Congress, on February 10th and 11th, 2015.

From the announcement:

Registration now is open for those wishing to attend the conference “What Is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age” to be held Tuesday, Feb. 10, and Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the Library of Congress.

The event is hosted by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, is the lead sponsor. Additional support is provided by the Popular Romance Project; the Nora Roberts Foundation; the Romance Writers of America; and Berkley/NAL, imprints of Penguin Random House.

Romance fiction is the second-best-selling genre in the publishing industry, generating more than $1 billion in publisher revenues in 2013, according to Bookstats. Romance accounts for 21 percent of the adult fiction market.

The conference will speak to the business and social aspects of romance writing, romance literature scholarship and public engagement with people who love the genre. The Popular Romance Project, led by Laurie Kahn of Blueberry Hill Productions, also includes the feature-length documentary film “Love Between the Covers,” directed by Kahn. There will be a preview screening of the film at the Library of Congress on the evening of Feb. 10.

The conference and film screening are free and open to the public; attendees are asked to register at

* For those of you not familiar with semi-archaic English, this is a huge and topical howler of a pun. I cannot believe the organizers are not aware of it. Bravo, folks, bravo.

Paths to Publishing – Barbara Edwards

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Wander over to the Snarkology blog today for an inspiring post from Barbara Edwards.

She started writing in adulthood, and wrote because of her love for words and despite some scathing comments from a creative writing teacher. She found her way into publishing when she didn’t accept a major romance publisher’s mandate to change the core plot point of her book. The publisher said ‘no change, no deal; our readers can’t handle that’. The result: no deal.

Later, when Barbara shared that rejection story with an online writing group, the novel came to the attention of a more flexible publisher. Barbara’s first published novel went on to good sales and strong reviews, and broke new ground in the romance genre.

Her persistence helped. She shares this great advice for writers seeking publication:

“The lesson I learned was to treat writing as a regular day job. Write daily, consistently. It’s hard work but worth every minute.”

Paths to Publishing – Romy Gemmell

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Romy Gemmell talks today on the Snarkology blog, about never giving up, wise time management, and learning as much as possible about the craft and business of writing.

She has a solid, basic list I want to quote here:

“If I might offer a few of suggestions to aspiring writers it would be:

Join a writing group of some kind if possible.

Experiment with different forms of writing as we often don’t know what most suits our voice until we try it.

Read everything, especially genres you might not have read before.

Never, ever give up. Circumstances and commitments can change but you are in charge of your creativity and it expands with use.”

Paths to Publishing – Maureen McGowan

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The Snarkology blog’s next guest, Maureen McGowan, had a circuitous route to publishing that includes stalled agents, defunct publishers, and an unexpected genre change. I won’t summarize further – you’ve just got to read it.

Maureen has a great quote that I feel is super-worthy of being addressed separately. She writes: “My first manuscript wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good enough, and I’m glad it wasn’t published. Now. At the time I was devastated—I had worked so hard on that book!—but I’m grateful that self-publishing wasn’t a viable option at the time, because I might have taken it, and I’m glad that I had the chance to improve my craft in relative privacy, instead of under the glare of readers and reviewers.”

Just today, a member of an online writing forum mentioned that her first rejection letter four years ago made her so angry she self-published that book and its sequels. It was a LOL moment for her, now, but there’s a grim reality underneath it. So many people now self-publish far too early in their careers, rather than investing time into improving their writing.

I’m glad Maureen took the long way around.

Paths to Publishing – Jennifer L. Carson

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Today on the Snarkology blog:

Jennifer L. Carson started imagining worlds – and people to fill them – when she was six. An award-winning editor at her high school newspaper, she realized in college that fine arts arts degrees are generally not good ways to fund necessities like bacon.

But: “Editing made money.”

So she became a sought-after contract and freelance ‘rescue editor’ for some major Big Five imprints, taking on foundering projects and authors, and setting them right. She put aside her own writing for years. After starting an online writing group to help a younger friend, Jennifer took another look at her original writing:

“In teaching, I learned so much more than I ever suspected I would.  I began writing again, and to my surprise, better than ever.  The interceding years that I thought would make me rusty had not.  The countless rewrites bordering on ghost writing and lots of bull sessions to fix failed text had solidified in the back of my brain. I reaped a reward I never expected.”

She’s leaving professional editing this month, armed with new resolve and a shiny new manuscript.

We wish her good luck, and can’t wait to read her book.

It takes enormous courage to do what Jennifer has decided to do, but she’s well equipped to succeed. Luck is mostly just being responsive to opportunities around us. Jennifer made her luck, or at least catapulted her career far ahead of many other would-be authors, by having a strong, time-tested foundation in language.


Paths to Publishing – Kayelle Allen

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Today the Snarkology blog features Kayelle Allen, a powerhouse of a M/M romance author, talking candidly about her own path to publication.

She started publishing in her fifties, but she backed up her solid writing with previous decades of worldbuilding-as-a-hobby in a vast science-fiction and fantasy setting. Her website proves it, by the way. (No, seriously, if you love big, romantic space operas, you should go there and lose ten hours browsing.)

I’ve always been impressed by Kayelle, her great characters and sweeping plots, and her business sense (unlike many erotic romance authors, she’s been careful about the publishers and sub-genres she picked, from day one.) I’m inspired by our similar backgrounds (as in holy crap, I’m not alone in goofing around thirty years in worldbuilding, yay!)

I hope you will be inspired, too.


Paths to Publishing – Judy Ann Davis

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Today on the Snarkology blog, Judy Ann Davis shares her tips on how to follow your writing dreams while understanding constructive criticism, weathering bad reviews, and adapting as a writer – without crippling your creativity or ego.

I’ll share two really important observations from her essay:

Some people think that reading cereal boxes makes them qualified book critics.

Always get a second opinion – if not a third, a fourth, etc. – after a bad critique.

Davis points out that after reading one agent’s harsh rejection letter, she set aside her novel for years. Until other sources of validation (in her case, many successful and well-reviewed short stories) prompted her to once more approach publishers.

This happens so often with new writers. We tend to lend too much importance to the wrong critics, and not enough to the right ones.

Je suis Charlie! (harsh language)

That’s ‘I am Charlie!’ in French, if readers have been under a rock the last twenty-four hours.

Earlier today in Paris, three masked gunmen brandishing AK-47s and shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed the offices of the satirical* newspaper Charlie Hebdo. They murdered twelve people – the editor, cartoonists, journalists, and police officers – before fleeing in two stolen automobiles.

le pen for blogPolice have identified the terrorists as Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, both in their 30s, and 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad. There is a nationwide manhunt across France. In mourning, French citizens have held candlelight vigils and defiantly brandished pens as symbols of their solidarity with the newspaper and the law enforcement groups who lost comrades today.

The protest has spread worldwide.

Previously, Charlie Hebdo endured firebombs and multiple death threats against its journalists and cartoonists, for satirical cartoon portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad and current Islamic figures.

I had to think about this for a few hours. Satire is an old and honored art form; as with dance and music, I don’t quite trust any culture that penalizes it.

My answer is aimed at all religiously-motivated terrorists, no matter the faith:

Don’t push us, the sane and secular citizens of the world, too far.

Or you may see what else our pens, science, brains, and determination can achieve, when we stop being tolerant of you. You might end up longing for the silly cartoons.

*On other forums, it’s been noted that Charlie Hebdo’s satirical style can often be crude, raunchy, and intentionally offensive. So what? So were Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, in their day. The point of shock humor is not to respect the target’s sensitivity, but to sledgehammer through its defenses to expose any underlying hypocrisy and corruption. In the newspaper’s half-century of operation, Hebdo cartoonists have pretty much gleefully skewered every religion, creed, culture, and policy. With generally good reason.

The cartoonists wouldn’t bother mocking militant Islamists, if there wasn’t something nasty already under that rock.