From the P&W Newsletter:

The January/February 2009 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine focuses on what inspires us in our writing lives. In "Why We Write Now," authors Chris Adrian, T.C. Boyle, Matthea Harvey, Yiyun Li, and Patricia Smith offer their insights on what drives them to write, where they find inspiration, and how they stay focused during these unpredictable times.

We've also launched a new blog -- G&A: The Contest Blog, features the latest news from the literary contest world, including awards statistics, tips on entering competitions, interviews with frequent winners, and more. Read the blog.

This issue also marks the magazine's move to printing on recycled paper. The body stock is 95 percent recycled, containing 20 percent postconsumer fiber, and the cover stock is 30 percent recycled and FSC certified.

What's Wrong with Authonomy?

Several things, actually. For starters, anything posted there is accessible by anyone without registering. That's enough for a lot of editors to consider "first rights" on the work to be already gone--not every editor, mind you, but enough that it limits the author's choices. You do, however, have to register to comment or vote on the work. Okay, so what they're really interested in attracting is readers, not writers.

That makes perfect sense, considering it's a HarperCollins venture, but they could at least be honest about it. They dangle the carrot in front of writers, suggesting that the highest-rated works will get in front of HC editors. They do, according to the FAQ, but the editors don't read the whole thing, nor is there any indication that the works will be considered for publication. What happens is that these editors will "read from the first 10,000 words" and offer feedback. That's it.

The answer to the FAQ question "Will HarperCollins be publishing books from authonomy?" is a complete non-answer. It appears carefully worded to hold out hope while saying nothing at all. I'd be a lot happier with an honest answer like "it could happen, but it's not likely". Instead, it talks about how they'll "be looking for promising books – as will other publishing houses and agents". Yeah, right. How many publishing houses have so few submissions (mostly agented) that they feel the need to scour the Web for more? I'm guessing zero.

Jumping the Slush Pile

HarperCollins has luanched their own version of weBook. It's called Authonomy. The difference with HC's site is that the books with the highest community ratings get in front of an HC editor.

It's another example of the Web enabling new ways to replace the traditional "gatekeeping" functions in the book world. The first, of course, was community sites for recommending already-published books. As the number of column inches in the print world devoted to reviews has shrunk, book recommendation/review communities have grown. So now we have the problem of expanding slush piles (or the elimination of them) and limited first reader time being solved by volunteer first reader communities.

Jim Baen's Universe has already been doing this for a couple of years in short SF with their slush forum. Now the concept is expanding.

Satirica in Hand

I finally have a copy of Satirica in my hand. The cover art looks even better in real life than it does on the screen. I need to give one more shoutout to Cac for the excellent art work. Of course, you folks know what I'm talking about, because you already bought yours, right? Hmm?

By the way, it turns out that at least four of the authors are in the NYC area. We're looking into doing some kind of reading/signing/appearance in the area. If you're interested in attending something like that, let me know.

Electric Spec

I almost forgot to mention that Electric Spec has puchased my short story "The Quantiversal Coefficient of Fate" for their next issue. The publication date is slated for October 31st. No, it's not a pro market, but they do pay, and it's a nice publication that has a taste for the darker stuff that so many markets shy away from. Check it out, it's well worth reading.

If you haven't submitted to the outstanding publication Clarkesworld Magazine in a while, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Their new online submission form/tracking system is beautiful. It reminds me alot of Jim Baen's Universe's system, except that it's automated. It sends out confirmations with a tracking link, and maintains a "queue count". That, combined with the fact that they no longer send out detailed critiques on every rejection, appears to have trimmed their response time way down.

Here's a list of suggested reading material for the modern fiction writer. Taken together, it touches on story structure, process, word choice, lifestyle, and dealing with that other world that keeps intruding on the fictional worlds you're trying to create.

What's new

Aristotle's Poetics

This is the foundation on which story is built. If you want a clear understanding of the fundamentals of comedy, tragedy, and story telling in general, this is the book to read.

Sol Stein's Masterpiece

Stein on Writing
by Sol Stein

If you think literature and popular fiction are incompatible, think again!

Sol Stein clearly details key elements that separate enduring prose from forgettable texts and details just how to apply those elements to your writing.

Byte Meets Write

We have to mention it, don't we? This is where Jason's creative side and his technical side come together—in his involvement with Poets & Writers.

Aside from producing an outstanding magazine, the organization does a lot of great work for the literary community and for emerging writers.

Life as a Creative

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan

Though the spiritual aspect of this book can be a bit thick at times, it offers excellent advice on dealing with your own creative nature.

Creatives are different. Because of this, they often have trouble dealing with the world around them. This book offers excellent advice on nurturing your creative spirit and protecting it from the things that can stifle it.

A Different Approach

Starting From Scratch
by Rita Mae Brown

A brilliant, funny, and highly entertaining book, this is another one that deals more with the writing life than with technique.


Myth as Story

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
by Christopher Vogler

An ingenious analysis of the basic structure and elements of myth and their application to modern fiction. This book clearly demonstrates the timelessness of fiction and the importance of story structure.


Sponsored Online Publishing

by Jason K. Chapman

It's the Content, Stupid

Content is King. It's one of the oldest saws in the Web business. It also happens to be true.

No one hangs around a Web site just because the navigation looks cool or because the background GIF is nifty. People go to Web sites for the words, the pictures, the information, the content. They keep coming back because they expect to find more of whatever content attracted them in the first place. If a site doesn't deliver, the surfers won't return.

The Scramble for Content

The deals are flashing back and forth at eSpeed. Amazon.com wants to broaden their product line with "Health and Beauty" content, so they go to Drugstore.com. Microsoft wants computer news on MSN, so they go to C|NET, ZDNet and others. Everybody has everybody else's content popping up in frames and windows everywhere. The "strategic partnership" has become the most valued coin of the realm. All in the name of content.

What's next? What happens when all the megaportals and megamalls have the same content--when the only distinguishing factor is the logo at the top and the arrangement on the screen? What happens when they've run out of content-swapping deals and are back to needing content that's new, fresh, and unique?

Fiction as Content

Magazines, the Web site's closest relatives, have had the solution for years: Fiction. Targeted-interest magazines have been adding related pieces of fiction to their content for a long, long time. Short stories and serialized novels have been published in magazines like The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy and many others.

These magazines use fiction to help fill their need for fresh, interesting content. The author gets paid for the story and gets the added visibility and respect that comes with appearing in a major magazine. Everyone wins.

Does Online Fiction Work? (more...)

Does Online Fiction Work?

Those who have been around the Internet writing communities will be quick to tell you that the answer is "No." They'll point to self-published poetry on a Geocities Web site that gets twenty page views a month. They'll mention fiction-centric sites like Mind's Eye that had trouble making the ad-sponsored concept profitable for short fiction. They'll bring up the difficulty of generating Web traffic for any new site.

Granted. Those models don't work. Draw those same examples back into the magazine analogy and you'll quickly see why. Online fiction needs established traffic and a flowing revenue stream to support it.

Content, Meet Content Provider

When HappyHacker.org arranged to publish THE HERETIC online, the site already had steady traffic, an established following, and an existing advertising revenue stream. The content of the novel and the content of the site are a good match. It seems only natural that a computer security-oriented Web site would be interested in publishing a cyber-thriller. A royalty arrangement based on the ad revenue generated from the novel's pages sealed the deal.

So far, the novel has racked up over 500,000 page views. The royalty model is hurt some by Web cache systems and by readers who choose to surf with images disabled (filtering out the ads), but overall it works. The rest of the Happy Hacker site has maintained it's traffic level, so the novel's readership represents a net gain of 15% to 20% in traffic.

The Future (more...)

The Future

It's not hard to imagine the concept of sponsored online fiction spreading to other kinds of Web sites. Travel-related sites might publish travel-related stories, space-related sites might sponsor science fiction novels, a site about automobiles might publish a novel like The Betsy or a site about dinosaurs might publish something like Jurassic Park.

There are a lot of excellent writers out there producing some really good fiction. It's been proven that surfers can and will read online fiction. Web sites need fresh and stimulating content. It won't be long before the Web industry puts it all together.