Friday, February 27, 2009

Are you a confident writer or a delusional one?

Via the always awesome agent Nathan Bransford, a link to this brilliant (brilliant!) post by J.A Konrath on the difference between having confidence as a writer and being just plain batshit crazy delusional.

Some of my favorite bits:
Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.
Would you rather be paid or be praised?
Confident writers know the best form of praise is a royalty check.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Law & Order UK! (No, I'm not kidding!)

Some of you who know me in REAL life know that I am and have been a Law & Order junkie for at least fifteen years. All the Law & Order spin-offs, too. Doesn't matter which one; I know them all by heart. It is television comfort food for me. If I'm at home alone cleaning or doing chores, I'll often turn on a Law & Order re-run just to hear familiar voices in the house.

So I was thrilled to learn today that there is a new Law & Order spin-off already airing in Great Britain: Law & Order UK! Even better? It stars Battlestar Galactica alum Jaime Bamber and Dr. Who alum Freema Agyeman! It's like all of my TV fandoms rolled into one pretty new package. Now, if only I can figure out how to watch it here!

Dear Earthlink SpamBlocker users:

Three times this weekend I tried to send query responses to people with Earthlink addresses. Each of these three bounced back to me with an email requesting me to fill out a SpamBlocker form. Just for future reference, I don't fill out these forms. I delete them. Most agents delete them. If you've taken the time to query us, take the time to add us to your approved email recipient's list. Otherwise, you may wonder forever why you didn't hear back about your query.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Updated Submission Guidelines:

I've updated my submission guidelines, both here and on AgentQuery. If you're a writer thinking about querying me, please do take a moment to look them over carefully. The primary change is the addition of this sentence:

Queries that disregard my submission guidelines will no longer be guaranteed a response.

I'm currently receiving more than 500 queries per week. With so many of you working hard to write good queries that actually do take my submission guidelines into account, it's unfair of me to spend any time at all on those writers who don't bother to do their homework. This is my way of thinning out the herd.

Also, if you do receive a rejection from me, please don't email me to ask me why I passed, how you can fix your manuscript, or for recommendations to any other agents. I simply don't have time to answer your questions, period. Additionally, it's not necessary to email me a thank you. While I appreciate the sentiment, it's just another unnecessary email taking a chunk of time out of my day.

Now, back to the in-box!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No screenplays, please!

Over the past few weeks, I've been seeing a large increase in submissions from writers looking for representation for their screenplays. Some of my colleagues are also experiencing this as well. And an overwhelming majority of these queries are coming from query services, a service that you pay to spam agents all across the globe.

First of all, FinePrint doesn't represent screenplays. Ever. In fact, most literary agents do not. That's why God invented film agents and production companies. Totally different thing, trust me. Secondly, do you really want to spend your hard-earned cash on a supposedly professional service that doesn't even know the difference between a film agent and a literary agent? And lastly, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that film agents and production companies probably don't like being spammed by query services any more that literary agents do, so you're most likely doing more harm than good to your budding screenwriting career by using one of these services.

This week alone I received seventeen screenplay queries, all using the same query service ( * cough cough looking at you SellAScript cough cough * ).

In the past, I've responded to these queries with a quick note saying that I don't represent screenplays. Starting today, these just get deleted without a response. Sorry, but it's a waste of my time. I have real queries from people who actually did do their homework to read.

Friday, February 20, 2009

For those of you who think being a writer is too hard...

...this thoughtful post over at agent Kristin Nelson's blog about the gifted Irish writer Christopher Nolan should be enough to give you a much-needed reality check.

Nolan, who won the Whitbread Award in 1988 for the extraordinary memoir Under the Eye of the Clock, suffered from a debilitating form of cerebral palsy. Christopher Nolan died today at the very young age of 43.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on JRR Tolkien: Love his work? Hate it? Why?

My previous post pointing out Richard K. Morgan's opinionated essay at on JRR Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings has stirred up some fun debate in the comments section of my post. Richard has been good enough to keep stopping by to address/argue/debate some of my readers. And it certainly seems to be a heated issue.

But Richard isn't the first prominent SF/F writer to discuss the many flaws in Tolkien's work. In the Fall 2000 issue of International Socialism Journal, China Mieville discusses Tolkien at length, both the debt that the fantasy genre owes him as well as the serious problems with Tolkien's most famous published work:
For Tolkien, the function of his fantasy fiction is 'consolation'. If you read his essay 'On Fairy Tales' you find that, for him, central to fantasy is 'the consolation of the happy ending'. He pretends that such a happy ending is something that occurs 'miraculously', 'never to be counted on to recur'. But that pretence of contingency is idiotic, in that immediately previously he claims that 'all complete fairy stories must have it [the happy ending]. It is its highest function.' In other words, far from 'never being counted to recur', the writer and reader know that to qualify as fantasy, a 'consolatory' happy ending will recur in every story, and you have a theory of fantasy in which 'consolation' is a matter of policy. It's no surprise that this kind of fantasy is conservative. Tolkien's essay is as close as it gets to most modern fantasy's charter, and he's defined fantasy as literature which mollycoddles the reader rather than challenging them.

In Tolkien, the reader is intended to be consoled by the idea that systemic problems come from outside agitators, and that decent people happy with the way things were will win in the end. This is fantasy as literary comfort food. Unfortunately, a lot of Tolkien's heirs--who may not share his politics at all--have taken on many tropes that embed a lot of those notions in their fantasy.
And over at the blog, Kate Nepveu has been systematically re-reading and writing fascinating commentary on every chapter of the The Lord of the Rings, one chapter at a time.

So I wanted to open this up to a wider debate, since I know that so many of the readers of this blog are fans of and/or writers of genre fiction:

JRR Tolkien: Do you love his work? Hate it? Why?

Jump into the conversation!

Richard K. Morgan on JRR Tolkien: The Real Fantastic Stuff in The Lord of the Rings

Over at the Random House Suvudu blog, my friend (and one of my favorite writers!) Richard K. Morgan has posted a great essay on why - although he's not a fan of JRR Tolkien - he's found surprising things to love about The Lord of the Rings. Very thoughtful piece; well worth reading!

Client Link Round-Up!

Some fun things going on with FinePrint clients:
  • Paul Jessup has a wonderful new short story posted up at Fantasy Magazine.
  • At long last, Mike Jasper's new book A Gathering of Doorways (Prime Books) is finally available at a bookseller near you! Here's what Lucius Shepard had to say about A Gathering of Doorways: “A strong and compulsively readable novel about family and friends and the horrors, ordinary and not so ordinary, that beset them. From first page to last, Mike Jasper’s A GATHERING OF DOORWAYS is a cut above.” Go pick up your copy now!
  • Alan DeNiro, whose new book Total Oblivion More or Less will be coming out this November from Bantam, just had a short story accepted for Interfictions 2, coming out from Small Beer Press this Fall. Additionally, if you can't wait for more Alan DeNiro, you can go download a free copy of his novella-length speculative poem The Stations. Alan has also set up a Twitter feed for the poem, where he'll be posting snippets as the mood takes him.
  • S.E. Ward will have a short story appearing in the final issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine (that would be the April 2009 issue).
  • And last, but not least, my colleague Stephany Evans represents the amazing Molly Harper, whose debut paranormal romance Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs will be coming out from Pocket Books very soon; Publishers Weekly just gave Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs a *starred review*: "Hysterical laughs are the hallmark of this enchanting paranormal debut....Jane's snarky first-person narrative is as charming as it is hilarious, retaining enough humanity to connect instantly with readers. Harper keeps the quips coming without overdoing the sarcasm, and her take on vampire lore will intrigue and entertain even the most jaded paranormal fan." Congratulations, Molly!

Facebook reverts to old TOS; posts a new Facebook Bill of Rights & Responsibilities:

In response to all of the uproar over their new Terms of Service, Facebook has temporarily reverted back to their previous TOS. In addition, they've created a Facebook group called Facebook Bill of Rights & Responsibilities, where they are soliciting input from users about how to best word their new Terms of Service. They've also posted an apology:
1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn't claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own your information.

3. We won't use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven't asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don't want, but this isn't what we're doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you've already sent a friend a message, they'll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New contest! Query haiku!

Okay, a new contest to keep y'all occupied so that I can free myself up to get caught up on reading. (Not having a working Sony Reader any longer is seriously cutting into my productivity and my reading time! I protest!)

In any case, here's a new contest, and it's a lot harder than the last one: Submit your query in haiku format. And you need to follow the rules for haiku formatting. Three lines, first line consisting of five syllables, second line consisting of seven syllables, third line consisting of five syllables again. Leave your query haiku in the comments field below. (Anonymous commenting is on, so have at it.) The contest is open until midnight Friday, EST.

The top ten haikus will be posted on the blog next week. Winner will get his/her real query letter critiqued in depth.

Think of this as exercise in thinking concisely. And have fun!

The LA Times responds to Facebook's non-explanation:

The Los Angeles Times takes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg to task for his non-explanation of Facebook's new draconian Terms of Service.

Writer Jackie Kessler steps onto the Query-Go-Round!

Over at Deadline Dames, writer Jackie Kessler, author of the paranormal romance Hell's Belles, has a wonderful post up about the query writing process. She shares her own query for Hell's Belles and thoughtfully dissects each paragraph. It's part one of a query writing workshop she just gave at RWA; she'll be posting parts two and three soon, so stay tuned!

Monday, February 16, 2009

And Facebook responds:

An official response from Facebook about their new TOS.

New Facebook Terms of Service grant Facebook the ownership of your content. Forever.

Marketing Vox, one of my favorite daily reads, just posted a story about the new Facebook terms of service, terms that essentially stake Facebook's claim to own all of your posted perpetuity. That's anything and everything you post to your Facebook account. Including your uploaded RSS streams from other blogs.

The actual offending paragraph of the Terms of Service read:
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.
The most disturbing sentence in the paragraph above is this one: "with the right to sublicense". Which essentially is Facebook telling their users that they can sell the subrights to any posted content on Facebook. This includes your personal information, any notes you import as RSS feeds and your personal photos. And theoretically, the way this is written, if you're an author who posts portions of your work-in-progress on your Facebook account, those portions belong to Facebook. Forever.

Why didn't Facebook users put up more of a fuss when the Terms of Service were changed? Because Facebook didn't tell anyone they'd changed them.

So am I going to delete my Facebook account? Nope. Facebook is still a valuable networking and promotional tool. I've always been pretty careful about what I post there, and the few photos that I have online of my cats aren't going to fetch any big bucks. And my blog is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Pretty much anyone in the world can use these blog posts with attribution. (Or without; like I can control that?) And if Facebook really wants to compile and sell a list of my crappy Lexulous scores and the number of times I've been fed to werewolves by friends to gain points in our ongoing Vampire/Slayer/Werewolf/Zombie struggle for world domination, well, they're welcome to it.

But of you're a writer/photographer/creator of any kind, I would suggest not posting any intellectual property on Facebook that you may want the right to sell later. Just in case.

More at Consumerist and Technosailor. Read the full Facebook TOS here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Because you asked for it: a compilation of today's live-Twittered queries.

This afternoon, in an effort to educate some of the folks who follow me on Twitter about what it is that causes an agent to stop reading a query and reject it, I did a series of 20 live-Twittered query reads. In essence, I talked about what went wrong as I was reading that ultimately caused me to reject a particular query. A lot of folks asked me to compile them in one place. Here you go. I hope that some of you find this helpful:
Query #1: Writer spends six paragraph telling me about his previously published book, not the one he's querying about. Reject.

Query #2: 1st paragraph talks only about the multiple themes in the book. There is no second paragraph. Reject.

Query #3: Great opening paragraph, strong hook. Unfortunately, writer didn't follow sub guidelines. Ask her to re-query with pages & synop.

Query #4: Also did not follow sub guidelines. First paragraph talks about writer's self-published book. No pitch at all. Reject.

Query #5: Followed sub guidelines. Good first paragraph. Writing sample badly over-written. Reject.

Query #6: Didn't follow sub guidelines. Misspelled my name. No pages. Reject.

Query #7: Followed sub guidelines. Good pitch, great hook. Not a genre I'm interested in, however. Refer to colleague at FinePrint.

Query #8: Great query, but book is too similar to something I already represent. Personalized rejection, ask to see other work.

Query #9: Didn't follow sub guidelines, doesn't tell me what the book is about, spends four paragraphs on his Army career. Reject.

Query #10: No salutation. Two paragraphs about theme and philosophy of book. No actual plot, however. And no pages. Reject.

Query #11: One meandering paragraph, each sentence separated by ellipses. Reject.

Query #12: No salutation (again). No actual query, either. Just the first three pages from the book. Reject.

Query #13: YA fantasy, 175,000 words. Reject with educational note about word counts.

Query #14: Query for illustrated children's book, which I don't handle. Submission guidelines would have told him this. Reject.

Query #15: Query for Christian fiction, which I don't handle. Again, my submission guidelines would have saved her the trouble. Reject.

Query #16: This query was cc'd to multiple agents. Reject. You just shot yourself in the foot, dude.

Query #17: Unsolicited attachment. Delete without reading further. This one won't event get the courtesy of a rejection.

Query #18: No salutation. (Sensing a theme here.) Text is formatted in multiple colors and font sizes. Hurt my eyes. Reject.

Query #19: Another unsolicited attachment. Another query deleted without being read.

Query #20: Loves me. Loves my blog. Has MFA. Won contest I've never heard of. Three paragraphs in and it's still not a query letter. Reject.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Guest blogger Marisha Chamberlain on author self-promotion.

We asked debut novelist and FinePrint client Marisha Chamberlain to talk a little bit about author self promotion, a subject that is the bane of many a new author's existence (as comments in many of my previous blog posts have pointed out):
Do I Hafta? – A New Novelist on Book Promotion
by Marisha Chamberlain

As I write this, my first novel, The Rose Variations, has been out for just a few weeks, and the buzz has been terrific. This is partly due to the efforts of an outstanding agent (Stephany Evans) and a remarkable publicist (Sarah Reidy) at Soho Press. But I’m working hard at it, too, and I started without a clear model to follow about how to promote your own book.

Social psychologist, Carol Dweck from Stanford University, in her book, Mindset: a New Psychology of Success, published startling findings that show that talent and high intelligence (which many writers possess) can actually undermine success. Why? Because of an unexamined conviction that if one is required to make an effort, it means one might not be supremely talented. Could that be at work in some of these lackluster fiction events by novelists whose work is sublime on the page? I suspect so. Dweck shows us in study after study that effort equals success. Artistic success plus marketing success—that’s what we writers want. No matter how terrific the writing is, if it doesn’t reach readers, what’s the point?

So let’s say a strong effort to market is intrinsic to the writing life. If we accept that, maybe we can face the numbers. Such as: a first novel must achieve hardcover sales to readers of a certain number, in the thousands, for the novel to come out in paperback, and even more crucially, for a second manuscript by that same writer to be sellable. Is that enough to motivate the excellent, if grumpy and introverted, writer? I don’t think so.

The private writing self moans—do I hafta? Do I really hafta do a radio interview at 6 in the morning, followed by a classroom visit at 11, and a reading that evening, of this novel I finished two years ago, when I just want to hole up in my study and work on the book I’m writing now?

Yeah, I hafta. Because if my book doesn’t sell and I haven’t done everything I could think of to get it into the hands of readers, how grumpy am I gonna be then? However, if I can find ways to get back to my study, even in the middle of book promotion, then I remind myself of what it’s all for: to make a life of this. To bring in enough dough to go on writing. Regular writing hours on a new project hidden from public view—that’s what keeps me going, promoting the book that’s out there now
Marisha's new book The Rose Variations came out on February 1st from the extraordinary Soho Press.

Literacy in the digital age and reading on a Kindle.

Via Ed Champion, a link to this thoughtful article by Christine Rosen about literacy in the digital age, with an emphasis on the reading experience on a Kindle. Of particular interest is her take on how children fit into this new age of on-screen reading:
It is also worth questioning what role the Kindle will play in the lives of younger readers. If there is such a thing as a culture of reading, it begins in the home. Regardless of their parents’ educational background or income level, children raised in homes with books become more proficient readers. Does this apply to the Kindle? Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies (1994), describes how our screen technologies exert a “conditioning impact” on all of us who use them; that is, “they make it harder, once we do turn from the screen, to engage the single-focus requirement of reading.” This seems a particular danger for children. We already know that electronic books marketed for children, far from being helpful in teaching literacy, can hamper it. Researchers at Temple University’s Infant Laboratory and the Erikson Institute in Chicago who studied electronic books aimed at children described a “slightly coercive parent-child interaction as opposed to talking about the story,” and concluded, “We shouldn’t use e-books to replace traditional books.” Anyone who has read a book to a toddler knows that one experience with an e-reader would yield more interest in the buttons and the scroll wheel than the story itself.

Meanwhile, older children and teens who are coming of age surrounded by cell phones, video games, iPods, instant messaging, text messaging, and Facebook have finely honed digital literacy skills, but often lack the ability to concentrate that is the first requirement of traditional literacy. This poses challenges not just to the act of reading but also to the cultural institutions that support it, particularly libraries. The New York Times recently carried a story about the disruptive behavior of younger patrons in the British Library Reading Room. Older researchers—and by old they meant over thirty—lamented the boisterous atmosphere in the library and found the constant giggling, texting, and iPod use distracting. A library spokesman was not sympathetic to the neo-geezers’ concerns, saying, “The library has changed and evolved, and people use it in different ways. They have a different way of doing their research. They are using their computers and checking things on the Web, not just taking notes on notepads.” In today’s landscape of digital literacy, the old print battles—like the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week,” held each year since 1982—seem downright quaint, like the righteous crusade of a few fusty tenders of the Dewey Decimal system. Students today are far more likely to protest a ban on wireless Internet access than book censorship.
It's a long piece but well worth the read.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just to clarify...

I don't read queries on my Sony Reader. So you don't need to worry that I lost any of your queries. Also, any manuscripts or partials I had on it are tucked away safely on my Mac, so nothing got lost. Okay? Okay.

More things not to say in your query letter.

Seems I'm not the only agent who gets crazy pitches in query letters. My colleague Rachelle Gardner just posted a hilarious list of things not to say in your query letter. Unless, ya know, you'd like to be mocked openly on her blog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Publishing and the art of patience.

I have 539 unread queries in my email in-box right now. Since the beginning of January, the number of emails in my in-box has not dropped below 300 for more than a day. Last night, I read and responded to 63 queries and by the time I went to bed, my in-box total had actually gone UP, not down.

So what does this tell me? That the vast majority of you out there haven't been daunted by the seemingly endless stream of bad news coming out of the publishing industry these past four months.

And that's a wonderful thing.

As I've said here repeatedly, and as my colleagues Ron Hogan and Jason Boog over at GalleyCat have been saying: publishing isn't going away anytime soon. Is it going to change? Sure. It has to. Is it going to get smaller? Possibly. Will publishers start getting pickier about what they buy? If they're smart, they will. Will acquisitions slow down throughout 2009? Absolutely. The fact of the matter is that there are currently more projects owned by publishers than there are editors to work on those projects. Manuscripts are getting shuffled around. Authors are reassigned to other editors. And books are being pushed further back in the publishing schedule in order to give those remaining editors the breathing room to take care of all the new projects that have been assigned to them.

So what does that mean for you, the aspiring author, right this very minute?

It means that - now more than ever - you'll need to learn the fine art of PATIENCE.

Everything in publishing in 2009 is going to take longer. It's going to take longer for editors to read and respond to pitches from agents. It's going to take longer for editors to find the time to read the manuscripts we're sending them and get back to us with a decision. A lot longer. It's going to take longer for a manuscript to get sent to an editorial board. It's going to take longer for your newly acquired book to get scheduled. It's probably going to take longer to get contracts and checks. Everything is going to take longer, period. Because there are a lot fewer people doing all the same amount of work right now and those people aren't superhuman.

So starting today? Cultivate the art of patience. It'll be the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dear Ken Starr: Love can't be voted away.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

And in related news, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act, stating that it denies benefits to gay federal employees' spouses. More here. (via Nicola Griffith)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The scariest new horror writer writing today meets the galaxy far, far away. (And it's bloody good fun!)

Joe Schreiber scares the living crap out of me. No, not as a person. He's a perfectly nice fellow. But his novels are terrifying. Like blood-curdling. I first came to be familiar with Joe's writing when my good friend Keith Clayton, who was at the time an editor at Del Rey Books, acquired Joe's first book Chasing the Dead. And then made me read it. Alone. At night. (Did I mention I was alone?) Which wasn't very nice of Keith. And was also utterly brilliant of him. Because Chasing the Dead is hands down the most frightening novel I have ever read in my life and after I read the manuscript, I didn't sleep for the next three nights. (Like, not even a little.) And I haven't stopped recommending Joe Schreiber since.

Now Joe Schreiber is bringing his particular brand of sheer bloody mayhem to a rather unexpected world: the world of Star Wars. Yeah, you heard that right. Joe is writing the first-ever horror novel set in the galaxy far, far away. And it's brilliant!

That's all I can tell you about the book, I'm afraid. If I told you anymore, I'd have to kill you. And then my friends at Del Rey and Lucasfilm would have to kill me. And then they'd have to hire Sam and Dean Winchester to burn my body and salt my ashes when I came back to haunt y'all for tattling on me. So no details!

But I can share with you the cover art, which is astoundingly creepy and awesome. (Click the cover above to see the full-sized art on

by Joe Schreiber will be coming out in our galaxy in October, 2009. If you're a fan of intense horror - even if you've never seen Star Wars (surprisingly, there are still people who have never seen Star Wars) - I guarantee you'll have a blast reading this book. Here's a great interview with Joe about Deathtroopers over at Bookspot Central. Enjoy!

Self-promotion or, Warning: being a published author means you are entering a whine-free zone.

A recent comment on a writing blog caused me to start mumbling under my breath and making impolite mutterings to my cats and furniture. (This is what one does when one is housebound and sick for a long time.) I'm paraphrasing the commenter here, who said something to the effect that s/he missed the good old days of publishing, when writers only had to write the books and publishers marketed them all, but alas, writers no longer live in that world and now we are (wailing and gnashing of teeth!) forced to (horrors!) self-promote!!!

I have news for you: We have never lived in that fantasy world.

Not ever.

Most authors have been responsible for the bulk of their own self-promotion all the way back to Dickens' time. (And Dickens was a master of self-promotion, by the way.) Because publishing brings in such a narrow margin of profit, publishers have always relegated the bulk of their promotional resources to those books that they see as their best opportunity for a return on their investment. And the more money they have invested in the manuscript, the more they're going to want to promote that manuscript. It's pretty simple math.

But authors have always been expected to do their own self-promotion and outreach. It's in every author questionnaire ever sent to an author by a publisher. It's in every conversation an agent has with a potential new client (and if it isn't, it should be): What will you be doing to aid in the promotional efforts for your own work?

It just seems that today I'm hearing writers complain about it a lot more.

Well, stop whining and suck it up. Every job comes with unpleasant tasks, even being a published writer.

When I first started working in bookstores in the early 1980s, new authors came by our tiny little store every week to self-promote, setting up their own signings, and leaving flyers, brochures and sample chapters that they'd created themselves. And might I remind you that this was years before word processors, people. Think about how much time and energy they'd invested. (Have you ever tried using rub-off typesetters letters from film? It's not easy!)

They had elaborate mailing lists - MAIL! ON PAPER! WITH STAMPS! - that they'd use to invite friends, neighbors and business colleagues. (Stamps, people! USPS!) And it worked, because the writers worked their collective asses off.

In 1985, one local writer drove himself to every tiny little bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Area (including ours) to introduce himself to the booksellers and talk about his new fantasy novel about...(wait for it!) cats. The author was Tad Williams. The book was Tailchaser's Song; it's still considered a classic of modern fantasy and - more importantly - it's still selling.

The rise of the Intarweb has only made the author's job that much easier. The marketing tools at your disposal - many of them completely free! - are endless and amazing: blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Library Thing, a million other social networking sites, chat rooms, writers forums, YouTube, Google video, video blogs, podcasts, iTunes, free access to the internet at nearly any library (yeah, you just don't have that excuse anymore so let it go).

You want to create a professional looking postcard to give away? There are places for that, like Vista Print. Another great place, GoCard, will even distribute the postcards for you. Want to create a flyer? Open up MS Word and look at the free templates available. Or go online, where even more free templates are available. Don't know what good marketing or publicity is? Buy a book! There are dozens of great ones out there written by professional PR people designed specifically to help you self-promote. Like this one and this one and this one.

Do any of the millions of creative and positive things that are available for you out there to promote your own book. But what I don't want to hear you doing anymore is moaning about how the writer has to do all the work.

Suck it up, people. Things are hard everywhere and whine-time is officially over.