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November 18, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Huge hurdles. Needed: short posts?

Feeling jumpy?

It’s been one of those weeks.

One issue after another has leaped out to stun.

Manic muses sleeping it off – oblivious to their disruption. (Weak excuse.)

So last week slipped by. It was an important one for writers and readers.

CA Hwy 101. (Public domain image. 1941 Charles O'Rear. National Archives/commons.wikimedia.org)

Books: A writer’s thoughts bridged to a reader’s mind?

Leon Hale believes one small-minded group is saving the publishing industry.

Now I know Mr Hale is old – writing his 91st year – but as a published author, and long time columnist, it’s an astute observation with all the publishing mergers.

(and I have to speak kindly of him – being one of the screaming pack of neighborhood kids that drove him wild enough to complain to parents on the block in his much younger years….although we were sure he was quite ancient / bonkers. Who else would close their windows in the summer’s heat? Air conditioning, when finally available, was considered a miracle for many reasons.)

 Authors now struggle with harsher distractions: the hard realities about writing and publishing. (Like The Hook? Like Kourtney? Like Jmmcdowell?)

More and more it seems you have to be famous – or notorious to grab a publisher’s attention.

Really HarperCollins. A “fictionalized account” of Britney Spears life? (Would that be a cartoon? Back of a cereal box?)

Walking the plank, Johnny Depp is sampling new depths to start a new imprint. (Thanks industry updates, Roxie)

Actors, out-of-control celebrities – even White House dogs – are a better risk than a new author?

It was going so well….(Image: Iridescent/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Even if finally given the golden nod, the road from idea to book store can be a nightmare as author Victor Villasenor found.

He got a hefty advance – so they must have liked his story?

But the proofs came in: the title was altered completely.

Suddenly they called it “fiction” when it was his family’s story?

Sinking feeling. Could he grab his book back? (read his efforts here.)

He wasn’t the only one that got caught in the whirlpool.

Alex Haley had the same thing happen with Roots.

Willing to herd ideas against the winds of change?

Fortunately there’s a few Don Quixotes out there not willing to surrender: struggling book by book.

Nicolas Kanellos is one.

The niche publishing company he founded gave Villasenor’s book a home (and it became a big seller).

While this small press might not be a fit for your book, Kanellos struggles are worth a read.

Long and short, small niche presses are out there and need to be applauded.

Ideas: Stack them up and keep them around.
(Image: William Hoiles/commons.wikimedia.org)

November 11-17 was University Press Week. In this age of publisher merges, that shouldn’t go unnoticed. (Sorry, this is a bit late – those Muses were not amused by so much last week.)

This is from the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) which is celebrating their 75th birthday.

“The breadth of university press activities may surprise you. Consider these facts, gathered by the Association of American

  • AAUP member presses produce more than 12,000 works per year, in both print and digital form.
  • The AAUP membership alone comprises 133 scholarly presses, found in places ranging from Abilene to Toronto, from Kalamazoo to Hong Kong. While almost every major research university has a scholarly press, so do many smaller institutions, and the collective range of topics covered is fascinating: everything from Christian thought to the geophysics of fracking, from forensic psychiatry to pre-Columbian history, and from poetry to the economics of food.
  • University presses collaborate with each other, and with other institutions, in interesting and intrepid ways. Check out Project Euclid, a ground-breaking collaboration in mathematics; or the Archaeology of the Americas Digital Monograph Initiative, a joint project of six university presses; or explore the past (and present) through the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project”

Long and winding road.(Image:Leo-seta/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Leon Hale emphasizes the importance of regional and university presses:

“Here in our state, writers produce good books that could never find a publisher up East, and the university presses have risen up to publish them. These are Texas books by Texas writers. Memoirs. Folklore. History. Fiction.”

Writing is like riding herd.

Realize it’s not exactly going from point A to point B.

Purposefully headed towards a goal with a little meandering here and there.

All those hurdles? Those that won’t be easily jumped, just skirt around?

Wandering among the post oaks,

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Cattle drive (1932. Bill Gillette. US Public domain/National Archives/commons.wikimedia.org)

Writers and cowboys: both with true grit.

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41 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Madame Weebles / Nov 18 2012 9:20 pm

    I get why to most publishers, celebrities, etc are a better investment than new authors, but it’s still ridiculous. Alex Haley, J.K. Rowling, e al are good examples of what happens when publishers decide to take a chance on an unknown who has a great story to tell. For most writers, though, thank goodness for the small press publishers.

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 2:53 pm

      You are right- business is business and print publishers are struggling. Every popular book written by a dubious “author” does help the new author’s book that is just getting started. It’s a tricky guess trying to figure out what will tickle the general reading public’s interest. Great stories do seem to surface despite it all. Cheers for the persistence in the struggle. THanks for penning a comment

  2. jmmcdowell / Nov 18 2012 11:40 pm

    Thanks so much for the nod! My old university recently started a fiction press to join its academic ventures. Unfortunately they’re looking for literary fiction set in the Midwest, which isn’t what I write. But I’m glad to see they’ve stepped into that niche.

    I think the small presses are the best traditional publishing “hope” for new authors. The big houses rarely touch new writers unless they’re already “famous” in some manner. Of course, I know I don’t want to read about any version of Britney Spears’ life, fictionalized or not….

    There are good books that are published by the big presses. And they’ve published their share of bad books, too. There’s success to be found in small presses and in self-publishing as well. Some self-published books are worth the price. But that’s also true of some traditionally published books.

    But I’d rather sift through some “bad” for the chance to find the good that the traditional presses didn’t recognize!

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 3:05 pm

      It’s gotten very complicated for writers. No set formula any more.
      When discouraged, I always think of 4 words: Hank the Cowdog – a book that has sold over 8 million copies – but it was a very difficult road. The author and his wife tried for 15 years to get the first book published – turned down by every single publisher. Finally published it themselves in 1983. PW called the amazing success a grassroots phenomena. He had publishers begging him to sign with them. Hank has a series now – and the author has a publishing company for all his titles.
      If you haven’t read Hank’s stories check them out (Christmas is coming). A children’s book that is terrific if read out loud. (Yes, a fan – I saw it gallop through the schools and met the author). Books have won awards and translated into other languages.
      Here’s Hank: http://www.hankthecowdog.com/author
      OK enough drooling over Hank – but the point is write a good story, have faith and persistence.

  3. rumpydog / Nov 19 2012 1:25 am

    I dunno. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I imagined being famous like J.K. Rowling or notorious like Hemingway. Now I just want to make enough money so I don’t have to keep doing this job I’m doing now.

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 3:16 pm

      Rumpy, read Hank the Cowdog’s story in response to jmmcdowell’s comment. Hank can encourage all of us. Besides – he’s a dog – bound to be good advice! Paw waves from muddy Molly

  4. EllaDee / Nov 19 2012 2:21 am

    I never seem to want to read what’s being pushed by the big publishers… I’m always behind the times with the new best sellers and can’t keep up in that area of networking chit chat… My book club picked a couple of new books that received editorial and press accord and they were atrocius, so we’re giving the newpaper book reviews a miss from now on… I want to read author’s stories not what someone with a business and/or whatever other complementary degree tells them they should write, and we want to read. I’ve found WordPress and Smashwords… and a whole new reading world has opened up to me :)

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 3:25 pm

      I’m with you about discovering good books to read. Blog reviews around here have been a real gift. Thanks for paging over to chat

  5. Kourtney Heintz / Nov 19 2012 5:28 am

    Thanks for linking to me in your post. And for the shout out. It’s been a hard few weeks but I’m reorganizing and rethinking things. Submitting to smaller presses to see what they think. And laying the groundwork to self pub in the spring if it doesn’t work out. :)

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 3:48 pm

      Finding a publishing platform is so complicated now. I knew you would bounce back immediately (probably before you hit the “publish” button). But you are telling writers it’s survivable – and part of the process. Sadly, I seen too many very talented writers walk away after their first letter. It’s a long road. Thanks for turning the page to visit

  6. Sunshine / Nov 19 2012 6:24 am

    Enjoyed your post…& honestly, all new to me so going out to reflect a moment. ;)

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 3:59 pm

      So many options for writers these days adds to the confusion. A good story will always find a home – but it may take a while. Thanks for wandering over to chat

  7. Snoring Dog Studio / Nov 19 2012 1:31 pm

    I welcome the smaller presses. I hope they’ll be more discriminating than the larger ones. I cannot take one more “Memoir” from an underage, vapid celebrity.

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 4:04 pm

      Small presses have a shot. Arte Publico is a stellar example: extremely hight quality books – but it wasn’t an easy road. Their founder is a great guy and loves a good story. I used to push his titles every time I could when I was with publishers that distributed his books. Such wonderful books yet so few knew about them. There are a couple of small Canadian presses in similar situation.
      ALl I can say about the celeb titles is that may those help keep a publisher alive so real books also have a chance.
      Thanks for jumping over to chat

  8. aFrankAngle / Nov 19 2012 2:17 pm

    Cheers to the small publishers that continue to carry the torch on that difficult, long, winding road … (love that pic).

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 4:06 pm

      Small presses don’t have big advertising budgets or PR firms. Readers can help spread the word. (and that is one amazing road!) Thanks for coasting over to chat

  9. robpixaday / Nov 19 2012 7:28 pm

    Like so many other things in this world, publishing bass-ackwards, often. Celebrity first, “writer” second. You’ve shown us places (links) I knew very little about. WONDERFUL!! And a relief. For the past few years all I’ve heard is how “no publishes books anymore” and how hopeless a career writing is. Thank you for this!!!!
    WOW!!!!!!

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 9:56 pm

      It takes a lot more poking around these days to locate the perfect home for a story. Although lots of university presses focus on scholarly stuff – there are some who like poems and fiction – maybe someone will spot something that works for them (really sorry this didn’t get posted last week) Thanks for shelving a comment

  10. robpixaday / Nov 19 2012 7:29 pm

    Whoops! Typo alert!
    “publishing bass-ackwards, often.”
    should be:
    “publishing is bass-ackwards, often.”

    LOL!! Maybe it’s a good thing I stopped writing!!!! :)

  11. robpixaday / Nov 19 2012 7:30 pm

    Oh, shoot.
    Another one.
    “no publishes books anymore” ‘
    should be
    “no one publishes books anymore”

    ::sigh::

  12. Carrie Rubin / Nov 19 2012 7:35 pm

    I was flipping through a magazine yesterday and read that Britney Spears might be ‘penning’ a novel (with help from others I’m sure). Add this to the already published fiction by Nichole Ritchie, Snooki, and Pamela Anderson. I’m not saying their books aren’t good; I’m just saying it sure helps to have a name…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate it!

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 19 2012 10:14 pm

      Roxie first brought it to my attention. The fact that out of control celebs jump to the first of the publishing line is nutty. I understand the philosophy of “if you can get them to read ANYTHING, it’s better than not reading at all”, but if lightweight books are all that end up getting published? The celeb thing make it that much harder to get noticed.
      I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on other blogs – managed to sandwich in a little reading time today. Enjoyed touring your blog – thanks for hopping over here

  13. The Hook / Nov 19 2012 10:54 pm

    You gotta watch out for those issues.. They’re deadly!

  14. jannatwrites / Nov 21 2012 5:12 am

    Not only do the celebrities get signed to do memoirs, I’ve seen several children’s books by celebrities (most recently, I saw a book by Jamie Lee Curtis in the library.) It hardly seems fair, but in a society that puts so much value in celebrity, I don’t know what else to expect.

  15. shoreacres / Nov 23 2012 2:37 am

    If someone were to say to me, “Ok – how do I approach this?” – the first thing I would say is, decide what you want to accomplish with your writing. Fame? Fortune? Ego gratification? Interaction with readers? Leaving a legacy? How you answer the question is going to help determine which publishing format is best.

    I also recommend the publication “The Best Magazine Markets for Writers”. It’s an annual overview of publication opportunities, and it’s a huge resource. It gives the guidelines for gazillions of magazines and journals – who will accept previously published work (as on a blog), who will accept only non-published work, who will accept new writers who never have been published. Etc.

    Why “settle for” these “lesser” publishing opportunities if you want to write a novel or great non-fiction book? As someone once said, “There’s only one solution to not having a name. Make one.” ;)

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 23 2012 4:26 pm

      Great advice for all writers.
      The Writer’s Market books are a good starting point and provide a great deal of info. You can update the info/interests by visiting their websites, too. Conferences are another way to catch trends and possibilities.
      I felt badly about not getting that post written at the actual University Press celebration week. University and regional presses are often overlooked or unknown.
      They can be quite a good choice Like Arte Publico which has agreements with big book distributors – and if the press does select your title, they are know for their high quality titles – big groups like libraries are more likely to take notice and purchase- multiple copies, even.
      And then there’s Hank the Cowdog’s story (great author story. Part of it down in one of comments) – never underestimate potential of a small press – to crack open a market and have publishers begging you to sign. Hank and his resulting series offers big encouragement for first time authors. Everyone has to start somewhere!
      Thanks for adding chapters to this book conversation!

  16. jmlindy422 / Nov 25 2012 3:54 pm

    So glad I got time to read this instead of being overwhelmed by my inbox and deleting everything! Very valuable.

  17. roughseasinthemed / Nov 26 2012 7:24 pm

    OUP and CUP (Oxford and Cambridge University Presses respectively) were always amongst the respected Uk publishers of authoritative history books. Not sure about fiction.

    How does one hit the fiction market as a first time novelist though? Self publish on the internet? Traditional route and 100 rejections (or more)? Keep blogging and hope to be noticed? (unlikely)

    I’ve got some serious thinking to do on this one, I have to say, so a timely post from you.

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 27 2012 2:46 pm

      Oxford and Cambridge a well respected press- and utilized world wide. Not all universities presses have fiction divisions – the ones that have big departments in writing/regional history/Spanish studies often do now.
      Publishing has gotten easier and more difficult I think with the internet. You used to just memorize some of the source books like the yearly Writer’s Market (different ones for magazine writers/children’s books/fiction….our library had them so I didn’t have to buy them all the time) to get what publishers were looking for and names/addresses/submission info. Now they are online, too – so it’s probably more current: http://www.writersmarket.com/
      Here’s a place for more info: http://www.writersdigest.com/
      Practical industry info is available in Roxie’s blog, too. Kourtney and JM ( both links in post) are blogs well worth reading – they are going through the process and their commenters offer a bunch of good stuff, also. One of those worth looking up is author Carrie – bounce off JM’s blog to hers.
      There are differing opinions about publishing first online. Some publishers don’t want stuff that has been offered to the public. But as JM says you do need to grab someone’s attention – and build a following.
      Self publishing e books is another option The Hook is doing that – he had a huge response to “down load my book for free” then things dropped off.
      Small presses/regional do offer an option. Once again, lists of publishers help there.
      It’s quite a complex undertaking….writing may be the easy part? Thanks for stopping by to ponder

  18. Paprika Furstenburg / Nov 27 2012 7:34 pm

    The idea of trying to find a publisher seems so daunting given the current climate. Your piece was encouraging. It’s nice to know there are still some publishers out there willing to take a chance on unknown writers.

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 27 2012 8:36 pm

      It seems like the actual writing of the book is the easiest part of getting it transformed into a book in the stores. Persistence and determination are important. All I can say is “Hank the Cowdog” – that’s one struggling author that broke through – and proof it can be done. (See comments below about Hank) Glad you paged over to chat

  19. Robin / Nov 30 2012 12:44 pm

    I’m so glad that small, independent publishers still exist. Otherwise, it might all be “A “fictionalized account” of Britney Spears life? (Would that be a cartoon? Back of a cereal box?)” That made me laugh out loud this morning. :D

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