Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still Divided

Back in the bleak days of 1957, when Ireland was an isolated backwater, Sheila Cloney decided that the parish priest wasn't going to tell her what to do. She was a Protestant, married to a Catholic, in a country that was all but ruled by the Catholic Church.

The result was a boycott of all Protestants living in Fethard-on-Sea, a small town in County Wexford.

The incident was made into a movie some years back. A Love Divided presented the entire wretched affair, a tale of abusive power and bully tactics that demonstrated ethnic cleansing by fear and intimidation.

Sheila Cloney has passed away, to rest in peace after witnessing a tremendous change in the southern part of the island.

Because she refused to allow a priest to coerce her into sending her children to one particular school, the Protestants of Fethard-on-Sea were harassed until they packed up and left.

In the modern era, post-Celtic Tiger, Ireland's population includes Protestants, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, and just about any other religious persuasion. All are allowed to worship freely. There's even talk of the Catholic Church getting out of the school patronage business, leaving education to the secular authorities.

The prejudice against religions and ethnicity continues to divide one small part of the island, however. Catholics in the six counties to the north are still attacked. A group of Romanian immigrants recently fled for their lives from Belfast after coming under assault. Within the past year, a Catholic man married to a Protestant woman was beaten to death because of his faith.

The corner of Ireland that was gerrymandered into a colony continues to exist as a backwater, trapped in the past, where Protestant and Catholic are kept separate with violence and fear. Sheila Cloney didn't live long enough to see that part of Ireland develop into a mature country, moving ahead into the 21st Century.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Million Little Impressionable Minds

After Oprah gave him what for, you'd think that James Frey would have gone away to wallow in his shame.

His memoir was a complete sham, after all, and how many people wept tears over him and ended up feeling the fool.

But no. James Frey is back.

With uber-agent Eric Simonoff behind him, the disgraced author is now going to write fiction for your youngster. At least, that's the rumor. Mr. Simonoff is shopping a manuscript that is penned by a famous NYT best-selling author who remains unnamed.

If you're cynical, you're thinking that the literary agent won't speak the man's name because what parent, after getting burned on the memoir, would go out and buy anything Mr. Frey wrote. Especially something for their child with an impressionable mind. What if there's long passages in there to promote dishonesty on a massive scale?

If you're more business minded, you're chuckling at the secrecy because Mr. Frey's second book, post-rumbling, didn't sell through and it's hard for an agent to get a publisher to bite after that kind of bad news.

The manuscript on submission is planned as the first in a six book series, and it's said that the film rights have already been sold. No surprise there. Hollywood's all about make-believe and isn't that James Frey's memoir in few words?

Now that Mr. Frey's involvement has come out in the open, it will be interesting to see if a major publisher makes an offer, and in what amount. Considering the weak sales of the last book and the author's damaged reputation, it's quite a risk, and risk translates into a small advance.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Barcode

In food news, Professor Shane Ward of the UCD Bioresources Research Centre would like to announce that he and his team have found a way to put barcodes on chickens.

Not live chickens, mind you. The experiment might have been too stressful on the poor creatures and no chickens could be harmed during these tests.

Professor Ward can put a barcode on chicken pieces from a processing plant. He had great success in getting a readable code onto the beaks and legs.

Cattle have huge tags in their ears, rather like a piercing, so that the animals can be traced from farm to abattoir in case there's an outbreak of disease. Easy, then, to go back to the source to discover the cause of the E. coli infestation or the origins of a hoof and mouth epidemic.

As chickens have no ears, it was impossible to tag them, but now the scientists at University College Dublin have solved the vexing problem. With barcodes and scanners, a chicken found to be infected with salmonella can be followed from the processing plant back to the farm. With that information, the health inspectors can narrow the focus of their work and stop disease outbreaks that much sooner.

The people at the research centre will be happy to share their barcode techniques, but they're also hoping that someone who knows something about live chickens will come forward with suggestions about how to get a bird to sit still long enough to be barcoded.

Except for that minor detail, a workable system is ready to go live.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All Or Nothing At All

Agent David McCormick is making the rounds of the publishing houses, but he's coming up empty in the deal department.

He's agreed to represent Andrew Young, former campaign staffer for the disgraced John Edwards. Mr. Young has written a memoir that purportedly details the whole tawdry business of covering up a big time politician's sexual liaison. The sweetener to the deal is a suggestion that Mr. Young might come clean about the paternity of a certain child that was said to have been fathered by Mr. Edwards.

Yet there's no interest in publishing circles. Mr. McCormick is thinking one million dollars for an advance, so juicy is the gossip within Mr. Young's pages, but there's not one single dollar on the table thus far.

On the other hand, former Vice-President Dick Cheney has been handed $2 million for his memoirs.

Granted, he'll be doing twice as much work at least, with a much longer tale to tell. It's said that he'll write about his entire career, which spans a lifetime.

What does it mean? That John Edwards and his paramour are old news and no one is going to flock to the book shops to buy a tale of sleaze and cover-up. It means that the publishing houses believe there is a large market of conservatives who buy books and will buy Mr. Cheney's memoirs in droves, if only to drive up sales figures that prove Mr. Cheney is still popular in some circles.

For one politician, it's all golden. For another, there's nothing. He's a has been, tossed onto the trash heap of history.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Minnow Leaves Them Wanting More

A reader of this blog sent a link to a minnow-related news story, a little piece in the New York Times that didn't merit much space.

The article might have been more suited to the business section, since it's all about a remarkably common business practice, one that Barry O'Callaghan's school of fish has found useful. It's made Mr. O'Callaghan the epitome of the gombeen man.

Ever wonder why you can't find a contractor to take on a small job?

Because that contractor has gotten stiffed more times than he cares for on the small jobs.

Lawyers cost money, so if the bottom line on the unpaid bill is less than the potential legal fee, you write off the loss and take it as a lesson learned. No more small jobs that aren't collectible.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt subbed out some components of their textbook production to Inkwell Publishing Solutions, which in turn hired freelance writers to compose the paragraphs and chapters of textbooks that HMH then prints to order for state school boards which require custom wording and topics.

Unfortunately for the whale-swallowing minnow, cash flow has been quite an issue and HMH couldn't pay Inkwell for the contracted work. Work which the freelancers did, and which Inkwell subsequently turned over to HMH.

So there's Inkwell, out of pocket, and when the freelancers turned to their employer for payment, the pockets were empty. Inkwell was skint.

Unlike the contractor who will make good with his material suppliers to maintain their favor and future credit privileges, the owners of Inkwell told the freelancers to go scratch when they came looking for their paychecks. No money from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, no money to the people who wrote the textbooks that HMH will be selling.

And the freelancers who are owed three or four thousand dollars won't sue HMH because a lawyer would be more expensive than what they're owed.

As a business model, it works, as long as there are thousands of freelance writers looking for work. That means there's a nearly endless supply of labor, willing to grab the bait and end up on the hook.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back In Business

Literary agent of great acclaim Jenny Bent is once again open to queries.

There's been a slight change, however. She admits that she's longer able to respond to every single one, so overwhelmed is her inbox.

Keep that in mind when you submit your query to The Bent Agency. No reply means rejection, even though you won't be told as much directly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alternate Route To Publication

Mary Evans needs a new assistant.

The advertisement on PublishersMarketplace doesn't name her agency specifically, but it's hard to be coy when dealing with experienced queriers. It's the e-mail address that gives it all away.

Ms. Evans represents Michael Chabon, a big name in literary circles these days. Getting a job as her assistant would put you in the same breathing space, which will be of great benefit when you're asking for a blurb for your novel.

Imagine the contacts you'd make. Better than attending some expensive conference, with ten minutes of face time with a literary agent. You'd spend ten or twelve hours a day, five days a week and maybe even some Saturdays.

And you'd have a foot in the door, to worm your way towards junior agenting, when you'd put your own manuscript in front of editors who are no longer strangers.

Naturally, it would take some time to build up to that level, but doesn't publishing work at the speed of snails?

E-mail your resume if you're interested. Health benefits are provided.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Elbowing Out MySpace

In an effort to attract teen readers, Simon & Schuster has created PulseIt.

Teens love to interact, don't they, and they spend all their time on MySpace or Twitter. The marketing people figured that if the publisher provided a forum for interaction, they had a chance to introduce Simon & Schuster books to a new crowd of 14- to 18-year-olds.

According to the banner, PulseIt is a place to read books online, for free, and review them. As long as the kids don't feel like they're creating a book report, which is much too much like homework, there might be interest among the bookworms.

Like Facebook, it's to be a closed community where the kids can post a profile and upload a picture. Again like Facebook, there's public information that can be seen by all, and private information that's closed to non-members. Parents are to be assured that pedophiles won't be hanging around, gaining access to e-mails or the like.

To increase visits to PulseIt, members are supposed to post a note on their Facebook page, to tell their non-literary friends that they've read a book and here's what it's all about. The idea is that other kids will then go to PulseIt, maybe look around, and join up.

Simon & Schuster has built it. Now will they come? Or will teens continue to see reading as work to be avoided, rather than a pleasure to be savored?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Examining Debut Fiction

To find out what it takes to get your manuscript considered, you could try reading the latest debut pieces. After all, if this is what's being published, what better guide might there be?

The first two books with flap copy indicating a debut work made the cut. No matter the plot, I only wanted to see what was on the opening pages that made a literary agent sit up and say, "This is brilliant and I must share it with the world."

Maybe I didn't make the best choices.

Stephen Lovely and Joyce Hinnefeld are both writing teachers. It's assumed that, since they teach it, they would know how to construct a novel. Not much editing required of a professional, the manuscripts are ready to go. They have an advantage there over the rest of us.

Mr. Lovely's novel, Irreplaceable, is set in Iowa where he lives, and there's all kinds of action in a hospital, where he once worked.

Write what you know, he's probably telling his students.

There's plenty of tension in the chapters, with a grieving widower and the heart transplant recipient who wants to meet him, the cartoonish bad guy who killed the guy's wife in a traffic accident, not to mention bad marriages and the stress of illness. Except for the parts where the author goes into detail about the heart transplant process (Dear Reader, I did my research and I will share every gory moment with you) and the narrative drags, it's a good example of how to tell a story. Not too surprising that Lisa Bankoff of ICM took Mr. Lovely into her stable.

As for Ms. Hinnefeld's In Hovering Flight, it's a mystery. What did Liv Blumer find in the opening pages that made her read on?

The book opens with a narrator talking about Audubon, painter of birds. There's a bird painter in the novel, according to the flap copy, but there's also supposed to a be tale of mothers and daughters, about the mother dying and the daughter coming to understand the woman and all that. I forced my eyes to cover the first fifty pages and didn't find any tension, anything that reflected the promise of the flap copy, or anything to keep me reading.

The author, however, won a prestigious award for her short fiction. Is that the key that opened Liv Blumer's door?

I should be more selective when I choose these novels for study. Or is there no chance of a debut author arising from the ranks of the civilian population?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not All Advances Are Tiny

Not enough money to go around, sales down, tighter market, etc. etc. You'd like to get your novel published but the literary agents won't take you on because it's such a tough sell these days.

Even if you should be struck by literary lightening, you'd be lucky to get much of an advance. Sales are down, tighter market, publishing houses are scrambling for cash, etc, etc.

Unless you're a prominent politician, in which case you'll be given $2 million as an incentive to pen your memoirs.

Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hachette Group, has reportedly given Senator Edward Kennedy an advance against potential royalties. In return, Mr. Kennedy is expected to compose his memoirs and turn them over to the publisher, and Grand Central will commit his words to paper and hope to earn back the advance.

In a tight market, it seems unlikely that Mr. Kennedy's memoirs would sell well enough to earn back that much money. Unless he comes clean on the incident at Chappaquidick, or confesses in detail some string of tawdry sexual affairs, it's even more unlikely that people will flock to the book shops.

A review that complains about a lack of new material or a lack of insight into key areas of interest can be enough to convince would-be buyers that the book isn't worth the price.

With the enormous and generous advance, Hachette is buying the prestige of counting a prominent gentleman among its clients. The rest of its authors, with their paltry advances and small royalties, will be the ones to pick up the slack. It's not that Senator Kennedy's book has to sell through. Hachette is banking on all their other successful authors to generate profits to cover the cost.

Monday, June 15, 2009

For The Wearing Of The Green

"They're hanging men and women for the wearin' of the green" goes the old song.

There was a time when it was against British law for an Irishman to pin a clump of shamrock, to wear the green, on St. Paddy's Day. A sign of rebellion, after the Famine, a sign of dissension and deep-seated anger that threatened to spill over. And spill over it did, in 1916.

I got little or no writing done over the weekend, so engrossed was I in the Twitter world.

The student uprising in Iran is playing out in 140 word snippets and cell phone camera photographs.

There's a call going out via the World Wide Web, asking everyone to wear green today as a show support for the embattled people who are desperate for a little breath of freedom.

Green is the symbol of the Iranian opposition, as once it was the symbol of Ireland's quest for liberty.

If you notice more green apparel than usual today, you are seeing the power of Twitter to inspire and organize. You can check it out yourself at Twitter by searching #IranElection.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Sucker Born Every Minute

April's Mom. Such a touching story. Such an enormous Internet hoax.

Beccah Beushausen might be in training to be a novelist. Or a huckster. Sure there's a sucker born every minute, and she attracted them with her touching tale of a difficult pregnancy which she blogged about on a regular basis. The toast of the anti-abortion crowd, but it was all a sick game.

Sorry, she says now that she's been rumbled. It's just that her own wee little boy died four years ago and the blog helped her deal with the pain and she's very much against abortion and isn't a blog a great place to vent such strong feelings?

It was a doll that did her in. To add realism to her blog, she posted pictures of the supposed mother and supposed baby, but baby was a doll and one of her loyal followers recognized the toy.

From there, the word spread with the speed of electrons that the whole thing was a scam, and some techno-savvy readers managed to track down her true identity and expose her.

Others who fell for the whole story believe that Ms. Beushausen was chasing numbers. She promoted her site and even admitted that she was dazzled by the growing number of hits. It translates into the amount of attention her writings received, and she couldn't seem to get enough attention.

Poor woman ended up in hospital, made ill by the stress of being found out. She's planning to make a full confession on her blog, and then she can sit back and wait for a book deal.

Anyone who could craft such believable fiction is bound to attract some literary agent's eye.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Books: Neither Analog Nor Digital

Did you know that television broadcasting will be all digital on Friday?

Most people don't know or care. They're hooked up to a coaxial cable and their service provider will take care of all the details. In homes with cable access, the switch from analog to digital broadcasting will take place without a blip.

For those who can't afford cable television, or don't care enough about electronic entertainment to sign up for it, they are supposed to have a converter box installed and ready to go, to translate the new signals for their old televisions.

The Chicago Tribune estimates that 76,000 Chicago homes are going to be watching fuzz come Friday. They don't have the required converter box.

For those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, they aren't aware of the changes coming and don't know a thing about any converter box. Some of those who do know can't afford to buy the box.

Come Friday, they will be without entertainment.

Except, of course, for books. The Chicago Public Library system has branches all over the city. It's free of charge. Anyone can walk in, sit down with a book, and read.

The ink and paper haven't changed over time. There is no analog or digital to the printed page.

The entertainment of reading will still be available on Friday, and there's no need to buy a converter box or subscribe to a service.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A False Economy

Fox Valley Technical College offers basic third level education at a reasonable price. To better serve their student population, the Board of Trustees sought the lowest bid for their bookstore provider, and now downtown Appleton, Wisconsin is paying a steep price.

Conkey's Bookstore has been in business in Appleton for over one hundred years, surviving worse economic climates than the present day. The book business has changed, however, and the shop has been struggling.

They couldn't compete with the likes of Barnes & Noble, so they lost a significant part of their market share when Fox Valley Technical College awarded the bookstore contract to B&N.

The students at FVTC get the best deal on their books and supplies. The members of the school's board of trustees are merrily patting themselves on the back, glowing with pride over helping the students, and stumbling over their feet in an effort to dance away from the fall-out of their decision. It's the process, they've said, we had to accept the low bid because it's the process, carved in granite and unchangeable.

Sally Mielke, board chairman, understands that the board is upset. They like Conkey's owner, they patronize his shop, but their hands were tied by the process.

The entire town of Appleton loses their independent book seller. There's talk of enticing a new book shop to come to town, but if the school board is more engrossed in supporting the process rather than a local merchant, who would be fool enough to invest in Appleton? You can bet that Barnes & Noble isn't about to open up in Conkey's space.

For those who cannot abandon the pleasures of browsing the stacks of an independent book store, they'll face the added cost of traveling further to reach another store in another town, which will reap the benefits of the additional sales tax generated.

With Conkey's out of the picture, B&N will have less incentive to offer cut-rate pricing. Cost containment lasts until the competition is dead, and Conkey's is pulling the plug.

But the students of Fox Valley Technical College will have cheaper textbooks for the coming year.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Legal Wrangling

Chances are, the people at HarperCollins think of Patrick Fitzgerald as that U.S. attorney who sent Scooter Libby up the river and didn't get to the bottom of the Valerie Plame case.

That's because news events in Chicago don't seem to make it much further east than the foothills of the Appalachians.

HarperCollins is planning to release a book about the prosecution of terrorism cases. Peter Lance's Triple Cross examines cases that Mr. Fitzgerald prosecuted when he was working in New York, and there's a sense that Mr. Lance won't be entirely complimentary to the attorney.

In the event that the book does indeed defame Patrick Fitzgerald, he has threatened to sue.

The legal minds at HarperCollins might want to peruse Mr. Fitzgerald's track record since coming to Chicago. He's been hard at it, tackling corruption at the highest levels and bringing down the Chicago Machine, piece by piece. One former Illinois governor is in jail because of Mr. Fitzgerald, and the most recent occupant of the office has been arrested and will soon be joining his colleague.

In short, Patrick Fitzgerald is a phenomenally successful lawyer, and if he says he'll sue, chances are good that he'll win.

He is thorough and methodical, putting together case after case and sending Mayor Daley's cronies to prison. It's believed that he won't stop until Richie's posed for his mugshot, the man doggedly determined to end the culture of corruption in Illinois.

Mr. Lance's editor would be wise to run through the manuscript one more time, and run the appropriate passages past the legal department at HarperCollins. They can bet that Mr. Fitzgerald won't leave a single stone unturned.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Reader By Breeding

By all accounts, there are people out there who like to read. People who buy books and go out in all kinds of weather to listen to the writers of those books talk about books.

Not a spare ticket could be had for those late arrivals who wanted to hear acclaimed children's author Neil Gaiman speak. Group discussions were at capacity, and book vendors felt like it was the Christmas shopping season all over again.

The Tribune's annual festival of books has been described as a success, but for that success to continue, more readers must be developed and a love of good books cultivated.

Jeff Raden and Audry Grahame have answered the call.

Two years ago, they began an on-line romance that blossomed through a mutual love of books.

On Saturday, the pair tied the knot at the Printer's Row LitFest, the site of their first date.

Their wedding program was shaped like a book mark and the bride's bouquet was made of book pages folded into blossom shapes. Can't do that with a Kindle.

A home filled with books, and how can their children not become enamored with the printed page? So much exposure, so much parental influence, and young minds will be molded into the minds of readers, the next generation of book lovers.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Horse Race

The horse set is in New York this weekend for the Belmont Stakes, the final race in the Triple Crown.

The gamblers would, naturally enough, like to know which horse will win so that they can make some money.

That's the thing with horses. You never know which one is going to be faster on any given day.

You can buy a yearling thoroughbred for $15,000 if you're interested in playing the racing game. For that kind of big money, the only certainty is the animal's bloodline. A guarantee that a colt sired by Secretariat is going to match dear old dad's abilities? No guarantees whatsoever.

Millions of dollars are spent every year to breed, board, train and race, with no promise of a decent return on investment.

Ask anyone who raises racing thoroughbreds and they'll tell you it's the dumbest animal in God's creation. But there's no beast more beautiful, more graceful, than a horse in full stride, running as fast as its skinny ankles can muster. For that, I'll watch the Belmont Stakes and never consider putting any money down. All the pleasure's in the elegance, not the excitement of a wager.

Friday, June 05, 2009

National Donut Day

For some people, every day is donut day. Today, the country lifts a sugary toast to the Salvation Army and calls it National Donut Day.

The idea for a national donut day started in Chicago, as a way to remember the volunteers of the Salvation Army who served donuts and hot coffee to the doughboys of World War I.

You can give some money to the Salvation Army by buying one of their paper donuts, and know that just about every penny you give will be put to good use. As a charity, you can't beat the Salvation Army for not wasting money on big executive salaries and other perks.

If you can handle the extra calories, you can pick up a free donut from Dunkin' Donuts as long as you buy the cup of coffee to go with it. Krispy Kreme will give you a free donut for nothing, no purchase required.

Watching fat grams and carbs and all the rest? You won't ruin your figure by making a donation to the Salvation Army, to support their good works.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Photographic Memories

All across Ireland, students are sitting their Leaving Cert exams and the level of anxiety is at an all time high.

It's make or break time, get enough points for your chosen field time. To say that teens are under stress is a bit of an understatement.

Despite the pressure and panic, Ireland's students demonstrated a remarkable level of brain power. Photographic memories, in fact, an ability to see a question and recall it moments later.

A superintendent of a school in County Louth handed out the English test paper yesterday. By mistake, he gave the students the English paper 2, rather than English paper 1. He realized his error, took back the wrong questions and handed out the correct ones.

In no time, the word spread from Louth and rocketed across the island. Students who had seen the second paper wasted no time in sharing the questions with their friends via text and phone, and then those friends passed it along the social network. The element of surprise was thus lost, with so many made aware of the identity of the poet who was the focus of the second day's test, thereby skewing the results.

The superintendent has been suspended, there's an investigation into the incident, and Minister for Education Batt O'Keefe is fielding complaints. The English paper 2 has been rescheduled, but not until Saturday. Stressed out kids, mentally prepared for the test, now have even longer to worry about failure, and their parents are right there with them.

Taxpayers should take heart. The fact that the kids could see information for a few minutes and imprint it on their brains must surely indicate the quality of the education that they've received. And the religious orders who run those schools can point with pride to the demonstration of Catholic charity, to the generous sharing with others that forced the State Examination Commission to come up with a new English paper 2 by Saturday.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why Keep Going

Laney Katz Becker isn't wild about the concept. There's merit in the project, but it's a rejection and maybe some other agent, etc. etc.

It's not right for Kimberley Cameron at this time.

Farley Chase thought it was an interesting idea for a book, but he wasn't convinced that it was something he could sell.

It's not right for Bill Contardi at this time, not right for Dan Lazar's list. Nicole Aragi is full up and can't even consider another client.

Could there be a worse time to be selling fiction these days? Even though novels that help people escape from their troubles are popular, publishers are pulling back. Sales are down, costs are up, can't take chances, and non-fiction always sells better than fiction.

So why did I roll out of bed before the sun was up, so that I could sit down and work on a new manuscript? Why didn't I go back to sleep, knowing that the manuscript I'm querying now is getting nothing but rejections so what's the point?

It's been a very discouraging week, and it doesn't look to be getting better.

Can't figure out why I keep writing when it's obvious nothing will come of it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

LitFest 2009

It isn't all Democratic Machine politics and corruption all the time in Chicago.

This weekend will see the annual Printer's Row LitFest, courtesy of the Tribune Company (with additional sponsors).

Most of the panels discussions are now booked solid, but there is still plenty of book related fun to be had.

Admission is free. There will be loads of books for sale, a trove of used books that will provide you with quality reading for the rest of the year. It's a chance to discover good, old-fashioned story-telling and wordplay, a chance to lose hours of time at one stall as you pick and choose and debate and stretch the budget just a little bit further.

Bring a sturdy tote bag and plenty of money. While you can get in for nothing, you'll not be able to resist the literary bargains.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Breaking All Records

On Saturday, I sat down and revised the query that wasn't working. If it had been working, goes the premise, I'd have heard from interested agents in short order. That didn't happen, therefore, the query had to be trashed.

By Sunday afternoon, I had lined up four agents to be queried. Open to queries, looking for my genre, all personalized and ready to go.

Within twenty-four hours, all four queries were rejected.

So is it the query that's so bad?

Or is it the plot? The story? The setting?

Will this second manuscript join the first, in the dust bunny heaven below the bed?

If I keep writing, maybe one day I'll get lucky and hit on the right combination of plot, storytelling, query letter and agent. Maybe I'll get struck by lightening as well. That's more likely to happen than getting a novel published without an MFA to hang my words on.

Whither Thou Goest

Where is publishing going? That was the question at this year's Book Expo America.

As usual, there was no answer.

Will it be all ebooks and Kindles? Perhaps. But then again, there are many people like me who want to hold the actual book in their hands. They want to be able to skim ahead with the ease of turning pages. Their eyes favor printed paper over an electronic screen. They find beauty in a stack of hard bound books piled on the bedside table, as compared to a white tablet-sized box. They enjoy the scrape of sand grains under their fingers as they read at the beach, without having to worry about frying a very expensive device that isn't built for rough terrain.

Take your Kindle on a camping trip? At least with a book, it never needs recharging.

Novelist Richard Russo stated that everyone is waiting for the next big thing, to adapt perhaps rather than become extinct, but no one knows what that next big thing is.

Tina Brown, who cast her lot in with the blogosphere, believes that social networking is the next big thing. Twittering, Facebooking, et al. is the future of book promotion. Every author needs a website, a Twitter account, a blog, a Facebook page, a MySpace page, and don't forget to fit in time to write the next novel.

I'm with Carol Fitzgerald on this one. She noted that everyone's obsessing over formats and Kindles and the like, and forgetting one important component. It's time to focus on the author and the book. That's what's important to publishing.