Saturday, October 31, 2009

We have a Bloom County winner!!!

Okay, my bad! I kept forgetting to actually pick a winner for my Bloom County contest! But after reading and re-reading and laughing my head off a LOT, we finally do have a winner!

Paul Neuhardt, your FTC disclaimer was my favorite, and will live on in infamy on The Swivet and hopefully help keep the FTC off my ass. Therefore, YOU are the winner of a brand-new copy of Bloom County: The Complete Collection, Volume One: 1980-1982, courtesy of Diamond Book Distributors and IDW.

And here's Paul's disclaimer:
DISCLAIMER: Be it known by all here reading that the following may or may not be the case in any given book review I post:

1. If I talk about a book, I might have gotten it for free from someone with a vested interest in the success of that book. On the other hand, I might have found it abandoned in the seat pocket in front of me during my last plane trip. I’ll try to let you know on a case by case basis.

2. If that aforementioned someone who gave me the book is deluded enough to think that my blog constitutes anything even remotely resembling “a force” in publishing, then there is the serious chance that my free book was worth every penny I paid for it and I’m unlikely to talk about it anyway. Just saying...

3. Publishers and authors, I will be happy to shill for you, but you better pony up cash. Lots of cash. All the free stuff I get is reviewed with what turns out to be my honest opinion, meaning if I think it’s crap, I’ll call it crap. Oh yeah, if you do pay me for the review, I’m going to mention that factoid by saying something like, “I read this fabulous book the other day, which I would never have known about if the publisher hadn’t sent me on an all-expenses paid holiday to a secluded tropical island, allowing me to read my complimentary copy on the beach in peace.”

4. Readers, until you see me tooling around in a BMW that is unexplainable by the income from my day job (and all BMW's meet this condition) you will know that I’m telling you what I think about the book, no matter how the damn thing ended up in my grubby mitts. (See Item 3 above for clarification on why this is so.)

5. FTC-type people, if this isn’t a good enough disclaimer for you, then you need to get a life. The IRS is happy with me, and they are notorious for being the grumpiest agency in our government that isn’t in the spy business. Who are you to think you know better than the IRS?

6. I could have said all this in far fewer words, but dealing with the federal government is like dealing with my seventh-grade English teacher: High word count rules, and bullshitting is allowed. There, I threw you FTC guys another bone and made this really long so it looks all official. Sorry about the IRS remark, fellas. That one was cold, I admit.
Congratulations, Paul, and thanks for playing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Contest! Win a copy of BOOKLIFE: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer

Last week I told you all about Jeff VanderMeer's extraordinary new book for writers, Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer

This week, you can enter a contest to win one of five copies that Tachyon Publications have graciously offered up as prizes.

What do you have to do to win? Easy! Leave a comment below and share ONE GREAT IDEA for self-promoting a book, something you've either done yourself or have seen another author do successfully.
Teh Rulez:
  • One entry per person
  • Leave your great book self-promotion idea in the comments field of this post
  • U.S. Residents only
  • Contest closes Tuesday, November 4th at 5:00 PM EST. Or EDT. Or whatever the hell time 5:00 is in NYC next Tuesday.
Good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"What do you think I voted for at Omaha Beach?"

Meet Philip Spooner, WWII vet, war hero, lifelong Republican, husband, father, straight white man and defender of gay marriage. I dare you not to cry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer - A different kind of guide for writers

There are a slew of writers' guides out there, every one of them chock full of well-meaning advice: How to write better, how to get published, how to self-promote. But not one of them talks about how to live a whole booklife, that is, a life that allows a writer to balance writing and the creative process with the very real modern necessities of self-promotion, personal branding and planning long-term career goals. (Oh, and somewhere in there? You're gonna want to eat, sleep, breathe and poop.)

Jeff VanderMeer's brand new book Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer addresses all of these things. (Well, okay, maybe not the pooping part.)

Some of what Booklife talks about:
• Using new media: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, podcasts, and IM
• Effectively networking in the modern era (why it’s not all about you)
• Understanding the lifecycle of a book and your role in the publication process
• Finding balance between your public and private lives and personas
• Creating a brand and identity tied to your strengths and your writing
• Working with your publisher: editors, publicists, marketing, and sales
• Taking the long view: establishing short- and long-term professional goals
• Getting through rejection and understanding the importance of persistence
• Enjoying and enhancing your creative process
Booklife comes with a great accompanying website, Booklife Now, that will provide fresh content every week from publishing professionals and published writers, as well as chats with some of the many contributors to Booklife. (Hey, I even have a couple of short chapters in the book, and will be answering questions online at Booklife Now on November 4th!)

If you're a writer and you're at all serious about it as a profession, I recommend that you go get yourself a copy of Booklife NOW!

Here's a brief excerpt from the book:
From Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer:

Many different factors determine your public brand in terms of a Booklife. Every publisher, every book cover, every online forum, every interview request you accept helps define you as a writer. Reviewers, critics, publicists, even your agent will define you as a writer too. However, you can have an important role in shaping your destiny by what labels you accept through your actions and what labels you reject through your actions. If you’re interested in being proactive in this area, a quick way to evaluate your current situation is to ask yourself a series of questions, the answers to which require research on the Internet. The content you produce plays a role in labeling, but not as large a role as you might think.

>>How do my readers perceive me and my work?

A simple Google search should answer this question, especially if you take the time to thoroughly read all entries across the web, categorize each mention as about you or about your work, make a determination as to the influence each forum, blog, LiveJournal, website, or other online entity exerts, and then build a composite picture of both yourself and your work from that research. Other questions you might ask in this context include:

--What do the covers or other design aspects of my creative projects convey to readers?

--How does the reputation or slant of my publisher (or other gatekeeper) affect how I am perceived?

--Which authors am I most often compared to — by reviewers, consumers, and my own publisher? (Do these authors correspond to my own desired parallels?)

>>What does my blog/website tell people about my work?

Usually, blog subject patterns are very revealing. No matter how you might want to be a different kind of writer, your blog eventually tells you who you really are by revealing what interests you and moves you to write. Many times I have seen bloggers try to re-imagine themselves by either archiving or deleting an old blog and starting a new one, with a fresh emphasis. Most of the time, the new blog starts looking like the old blog within five or six months, in terms of the type of content presented there. If this is the case, you are fighting against your core nature and should practice acceptance. You’ll be much happier.

>>What websites and blogs have I added to my favorites in my web browser, and does reading them support my efforts at branding?

You’re shaped in part by the content you digest. If you aspire to be a mystery writer but the geek/reader part of you has decided to visit mostly fantasy or pop culture sites, you are absorbing content that isn’t directly supporting your writing goals. While there’s nothing wrong with diversity or using part of your day to play, just be aware that in doing so you are making a choice. Indeed, you may be telling yourself you don’t want to write mysteries after all.

>>What does the online trail of my doppelgänger look like?

Never underestimate the power of mimicry. If you have a writer you admire who you feel a kinship with--their writing is similar to yours in some way and their career has the trajectory you want for your own--use the Advanced Search options at to map out their online presence on both blogs and websites. You will find out where the writer you want to emulate has and hasn’t been reviewed and interviewed, where they’ve been welcomed and where shut out.

You can then determine at least two things by implication: a general outline of that writer’s tactical decisions (roughly, what they said yes to or had a chance to say yes to) and the perception of that writer and his or her work on the Internet. Comparing that perception to the perception of your own persona and work helps to define the gap between where you are and where you want to be. (It also performs the useful service of uncovering possible opportunities and contacts.)
Booklife launched this week; Jeff's new novel Finch pubs on November 3rd. Starting THE VERY NEXT DAY, Jeff embarks on what can only be called the Book Tour of Insanity: 27 events in 36 days. Check out the tour schedule and head on out to meet him at a bookstore near you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guest blogger agent Rachelle Gardner talks about Christian publishing and the CBA marketplace.

I get a lot of queries from writers of Christian fiction and non-fiction, which is something I don't represent. Often, if I think the query has merit, I recommend that the writer try to query my colleague Rachelle Gardner, an agent pal of mine who specializes in Christian publishing and the CBA marketplace. I've been slammed a few times by writers whose Christian fiction I've rejected because of their mistaken assumption that I'm making a judgment about the writer's faith. I'm not, actually. But I am making a judgment about my own ability to intelligently represent a specialized category in a marketplace with which I have only a passing familiarity. The fact is that the CBA market is a vast one, with its own collection of publishers, editors, sales reps, jobbers and bookstore chains. And as such, it is a category that requires a special kind of expertise. Expertise that Rachelle Gardner has in spades, by the way, and that she graciously agreed to share here when I asked her if she'd write a little bit about Christian publishing for the readers of The Swivet.
The Scoop on Christian Publishing

by Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

WordServe Literary

If you're a Christian and you're writing a book that overtly includes your faith, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, consider that you may need to be looking for a CBA agent and a CBA publisher.

What's CBA?

CBA means "Christian Booksellers Association" but refers to the entire Christian publishing industry including publishers, authors, agents, and bookstores. It's a niche within the larger realm of publishing, and it developed over the last forty years to serve those who are looking for books that deal openly with Christianity.

The Christian publishing industry began with companies who published Bibles; then came the need for books to help people understand the Bible. The rest grew out of Christians' desire to read and write books that deal openly with all aspects of their faith.

Now there are a whole group of publishers who specifically serve the Christian market. Some of the largest and oldest are Thomas Nelson, Tyndale House, Guideposts, and Baker Books.

Most of the major secular publishers have recognized the potential in serving this market, so most of them have a Christian imprint:

Zondervan is an imprint of HarperCollins

Howard Books is an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Waterbrook/Multnomah is an imprint of Random House

FaithWords is an imprint of Hatchette Book Group

Christian bookstores serve this market as well: Lifeway, Mardel, and Family Christian Stores among others. Over the last ten years, regular (secular) bookstores have recognized how lucrative this market can be, so Barnes & Noble and Borders now have nice-sized sections devoted to Christian books.

Christian publishing also has its own writers conferences, as well as an annual convention (ICRS) that's similar to BEA only devoted to this specific market. And since the market is so specialized, there is a whole group of agents who have expertise in this market and serve Christian authors. Here is a good list of agents who work with the CBA.

Now, this is not to say that there's no overlap. Occasionally a secular imprint of a major New York house will publish a Christian book. And several CBA agents also represent books to non-CBA houses.

But if you're trying to sell a book with overtly Christian themes, be aware that you're probably not going to have much success querying general market agents. If they don't have experience selling into the CBA houses, they're not going to do a good job with your book. If they say "no" to representing your book, it's not necessarily because they're not a Christian (many are, as a matter of fact), it's because that's not the business they're in.

Almost all agents specialize in a particular type of book they represent. Some represent mostly romance. Some specialize in mystery, thriller and suspense. Some agents specialize in healthcare and self-help titles. Specialization allows agents to become experts in their genre or category, staying on top of trends and requirements. So, CBA agents specialize in Christian books by Christian authors.

The agents in New York spend years developing relationships with the editors at the New York publishing houses. Similarly, Christian agents spend years developing relationships with the editors at the Christian houses. So if you're trying to sell a book that overtly includes your Christianity, you're going to want to learn about CBA and get with an agent who can sell into CBA houses.

Want to learn more?

Here are some CBA agents who blog:

MacGregor Literary

Books & Such Literary

Steve Laube Literary

and then there's me.

Here are some posts from my blog that deal specifically with Christian publishing.

If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!
Rachelle Gardner has been an agent for two years, and has been in Christian publishing for six years. Prior to that she worked in general market publishing. Visit her blog here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

When compassion dies, we're all lessened as human beings: why we need gay marriage now more than ever.



Enough of your hate-based religious objections. Enough of your soap-boxes. Enough of your homophobic excuses. Enough of your deconstructionist nitpicking at country, state and federal laws. Enough of your obsession with making an entire class of people legally-lesser-beings.


You want a HUMAN reason that we need a federal law recognizing same-sex marriage now? You want a reason that any compassionate God would agree with? READ THIS NOW. If you aren't completely furious by the end of this essay, you simply aren't human. And frankly, I don't want to know you.

And if you'd like to protest the way that Jackson Memorial Hospital treated these women and their family, here's the phone number for the hospital: (305) 585-1111.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The "Opus and Bill the Cat Thumb Their Noses at the FTC" Bloom County book giveaway contest!

The fine folks at Diamond Book Distributors have offered up for a giveaway a brand-new copy of the book that many of you comic fans have been salivating over: Bloom County: The Complete Collection, Volume One: 1980-1982, published by IDW, is the first of a five-volume collection that brings together all of Berkeley Breathed classic Bloom County strips in one ginormous and friggin' gorgeous collection. It just hit bookstore this week, too! (Seriously, I could not stop looking at this when I saw it at a friend's house in Seattle last week.)

Did I get the book for free? Well, yes. However, technically the book resides in the state of Washington, from whence it will be mailed directly to the winner. Does it still count as my being compensated to promote the book if it never actually followed me home to New York? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

---> End Disclaimer <---

What do you need to do to win? WRITE ME AN FTC BOOK BLOG DISCLAIMER! Leave it in the comments field. The funniest one wins and will appear as my official FTC blog disclaimer in perpetuity or until the FTC comes to its collective senses.

Teh Rulez:
  • One entry per person
  • Leave your entry in the comments field of this post
  • U.S. Residents only
  • Contest closes at Friday, October 16th at 5:00 PM EST
  • Winner will be announced on Monday, October 19th
  • Employees of IDW, Diamond Comics and Diamond Books are not eligible
  • Neither is Richard Cleland
  • Or Roman Polanski
  • Okay, I'm done now
  • Well, maybe I'll exclude Michael Vicks, too
  • Seriously, I am *really* done now
Okay, then. Get to it!