“The Four Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups”

A blog post by Jennie Nash.

(With bonus Pixar content from the book Creativity, Inc.)

I’ve found that while critiques are useful, it soon becomes apparent that they aren’t usually very consistent. What’s listed as a problem for one critic is sometimes another critic’s favorite part.

One key is looking for patterns. If several separate people think your tense isn’t right for the story, they may be on to something.

It also makes a difference who’s doing the critiquing. Sorry, but all else being equal, an experienced opinion from a writing professional should probably carry more weight than your writing group’s opinion (unless your writing group has a best-selling author or two in it).

That doesn’t mean the professionals can’t be wrong. They sometimes are.

When it comes down to it, you have to develop enough experience and maturity to judge your work yourself, and that isn’t easy. I’m still working on it.

“My Favorite Animal, the Book Scorpion”

Apparently there are tiny scorpions that protect your old books against booklice.

I never knew about this until I read about it in a blog entry by E. H. Kern.

Come to that, I didn’t know that much about booklice.

Book Scorpion

For a lot more than any sensible person really wants to know about book scorpions, check out this Scientific American article.

I’m still coming to terms with the concept of eyelash mites.

Now that I think about it, the best book ever involving eyelash mites is Jay Hosler’s Sandwalk Adventures, A wonderful look at Darwin and natural selection from the viewpoint of both Charles Darwin and a smart and engaging little eyelash mite.

Sandwalk Adventures

Agents WILL look you up online.

If you’re trying to get published, remember that anything you put on the internet may be used against you in the court of public opinion. Heck, that’s good advice even if you’re not trying to get published.

A survey of agents, editors, and art directors finds that not only do most of them look up potential clients online, but a large majority of them have rejected someone because of what they found (!). Okay, it’s admittedly a small sample, but very informative.

(Thanks to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for the survey, and Richard Sutton for the tip.)

Nook’s new POD service

Nook Press has come out with a Print-On-Demand (POD) service.

Note that this isn’t like Amazon’s Createspace — Barnes and Noble isn’t going to put your paperback up for sale online or in stores. It’s more like an alternative to Lulu.

I fed Castle Falcon into the system to see what I would get. Like Lulu and Createspace, you upload PDF files for interiors and covers.

The purchase price is lower than for Lulu books. My hardcover dust jacket version would cost me $16.42 at Nook versus $22.55 for the Lulu version. A Nook casewrap version is $14.92 versus $19.55 at Lulu. A Nook Press 9×6 paperback is about $10.00, compared to $6.80 if I order a copy of my Createspace version, so they don’t beat Amazon’s price for author orders. They barely beat Amazon’s $11.69 retail price. There don’t seem to be any quantity discounts.

I don’t know what the binding and printing quality for the Nook version would be. My main complaint so far is that the Nook cover creator is primitive compared to the options available for cover creation at Lulu or Createspace.

Nook lets you upload a front and back cover PDF image. That’s it. For dust jacket covers, front and back flaps are plain white. Nothing else. You get to pick a spine color: black, white, or tan. Spine text is in a font of their choosing (see my Nook Press cover below).

Nook_Cover_Castle Falcon_Casebound_200dpi

Check out that elegant spine art. Not sure where that white rectangle under the barcode came from either.

On the other hand, Lulu and Createspace have several methods for making covers ranging from easy-to-use online template options all the way up to advanced single-image options where I can upload one image, an actual layout that wraps all the way around the book, flaps and all (see my Lulu dust jacket below). The latter is a pain to create in Photoshop, requiring careful attention to size and positions, but at least I control everything and the spine looks like it belongs to the cover.


It’s possible the Nook POD system will improve. It’s cheaper than Lulu, but I won’t be using it unless I can bring things like covers and fonts up to my standards.

“Making a living from writing books: what works, what doesn’t”

Good article by Emma Darwin on what it takes to make a living on your writing. “Item 1” is something I noticed a couple of years ago: that many successful new authors, particularly self-published ones, are immensely prolific. They turn out book after book in a relatively short time, and while they might not all be literary masterpieces they are good enough to keep readers coming back. These books are often parts of a long story arc, or a series built around a familiar set of characters, which builds a large audience for the next book. A number of success stories in recent years involved authors who put up a series of stories online, drawing in repeat readers with cliffhangers and multiple stories about favorite characters. Then they moved into self-publishing, usually e-books, and started to make money at it. Again, they put out a lot of books. In some cases, their sales became robust enough to attract traditional publishing contracts. You’ve seen these authors online–the enthusiastic ones with ten or twenty “works in progress” and two or three ongoing series. In the Romance genre, they’re legion. Unfortunately, while this discovery impressed me enough to post a picture of Scheherazade next to my computer, I also realized I’m not very good at this kind of writing. Ah, well. scheherazade_4x6 (Thanks to Elen Caldecott for flagging this.)

Will O’ the Wisp

I have many shelves of graphic novels, surprisingly few of which came from DC or Marvel (to be fair, I’m not counting Vertigo as “DC.”)

A number of these are unusual, out-of-the-mainstream books I discovered browsing the shelves of my local comic store.

A recent acquisition was “Will O’ the Wisp,” by Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchison. The beautiful hardcover binding first got my attention in the store, with gold trim and an actual metal latch on the book.

The story is about Aurora Grimeon, a suddenly-orphaned girl who ends up with her grandfather in a Louisiana swamp filled with evil and magic. It’s well done, although the action is a bit hard to follow in a couple of places.

But it was the first page that pretty much made the sale for me:

Will O' the Wisp First Page_200dpi