Author blacklist?

I got an interesting question posted on our Editor Chat page, wanting to know about a very feared idea:

Hey is there really something known as a blacklist for writers?
I’ve heard of it, but get different feelings from different people on the subject…

Many writers have heard of a universal “black list” that will damn an author forever if their names ends up on it. That editors from publishing houses send out mass emails to every other house around the country, warning others about a particular writer or agent, telling them how terrible and annoying the person is, and that every editor in their right mind will avoid them at all costs…

To make a long story short: no. There is no such thing as a universal author blacklist. Editors do not put up flyers with pain in the ass writers to ruin their future career, and do not take time out of their already busier than hell days to email other editors at other houses…we don’t have time, and really, we don’t care enough about such a thorn-in-our-side-writer to do so. We have other writers to deal with, too many submissions to shift through, and too much general crap on our minds to give that writer a second thought.

Now, not to say that there isn’t a “softer” version of a piss-list in each publishing house. What do I mean by this? Well, it means getting a threatening email from a writer after rejecting their manuscript, and then having the same writer submit another manuscript two weeks later.

It’s not so much a “black list” that houses keep, but we do remember. And at Leucrota Press, each editor keeps a spreadsheet of submissions read, just to keep track for the month. And yes, if there is a psycho writer out there, I – and our other editors – will send an in office memo about it. But aside from not putting much effort out to read his manuscript before returning it, we didn’t do anything else to the guy.

So don’t worry about. But at the same time, use common sense. Don’t be pissy or overly sarcastic and not expect a little reaction back. As long as you’re professional, you’re fine.

Hope this helps to clarify.

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I’m going craaaaaazy!

It’s funny, how when one is stuck in an unwanted situation (such as reading piles and piles of crap loaded on the corner of my sagging desk), the ends to which the human mind will go in order to keep its sanity.

Despite my displeasure at country music in the last decade, I’ve found that Garth Brooks is an excellent remedy for the craziness. *shakes head.*

No, an intervention is not necessary. Surprisingly, I happen to be enjoying my unbalanced mood at the moment.

Do you need to put a copyright notice before submitting your manuscript?

I got an email the other day from a potential submitter, and I thought that it would be wise, and time-saving of me, to post it here on the blog.

…do I need to put a copyright notice on the cover page? Or should I put it in the footer of the document? Which do you prefer?

Well, to tell you the truth I don’t prefer either way. Because, really, I don’t like seeing it on the manuscript anywhere. Period. And it goes the same for the majority of publishers. Why? Because it shows a lack of professionalism, a lack of knowledge in the publishing industry, and a lack of trust for the publisher.

Trust me, no publisher in their right mind would steal your work. None. If an editor really likes your work that much, they’ll contract you. It’s too much work and hassle to try to steal someone’s work – especially when you’ve got a stack of a hundred other willing writers who will do the work for you with their own story.

Below is an excerpt from the U.S. Copyright Office:

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Another excellent article was written by Brad Templeton, titled “10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained.”

What’s in a name? – Titles for your novel.

So you’re finally finished writing it – the thing that has taken up all of your free time for the past two years (or more), the monkey on your back that wouldn’t let you sleep, that had you pulling out your pen and paper while on vacation with your family because The Idea came to you…

Well, you’re finished. You want to print it out, slap on a title, and send it off.

Hold up, there partner! Pause, breathe, put the the manuscript down. Easy! There you go….

What’s the big deal with a title?

Everything! It’s the first thing that a potential reader will see, the line that will either catch an editor’s attention or send it straight to the trash can. Just as your name represents you, the title of your book must be representative and catchy for your novel.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…

There are three distinct groups of titles.

The first is the good: the ones that catch attention, make a reader pick the book up, scan the front, turn it over and read the back, and then on to the checkout stand. Examples: Empress, Boiling Point, Crown of Thorns, Slaughterhouse-Five, A Feast for Crows.

The bad: have a hit and miss chance of grabbing a reader, with good enough cover art and some fantastic quotes from the New York Times or Publisher’s Weekly, they may be read. They probably won’t be the first book a reader picks up, but it’s possible. Examples: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, War of the Gods, Secrets of Droon: The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet, Maximum Ride: the Angel Experiment.

Then the ugly: get the response “how did this ever get onto this shelf?” “What was the editor/author thinking?” Examples: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl…

So how do you name it?

Unfortunately, while there is a plethora of baby-name books flooding the market and internet, there is no “novel-name book” for authors. So, you must be creative. Which really shouldn’t be that hard – hell, you wrote a book, didn’t you?

Coming up with the name of your novel should be a process started at the same time you write the firs paragraph, and honestly, will and should go on until you’re done with your final edit. It’s not an easy task – parents may argue and pine over it for nine months – why should your naming process be any different?

Following are several tips to help you come up witht the ideal name for your “baby.” These are merely brainstorming techniques to hopefully help something click in that creative cavity you have sitting between your shoulders:

Make a list

1. the names of your main characters
2. the major places in your book
3. any special talismans/objects that play a specific/important role (ie. The Sword of Shanara)
4. creatures, animals, aliens, names

Your plot

1. what is the point of your book?
2. is there a journey? To where? For why?
3. are you writing about a deeper meaning?
4. can you tie in your book with current events or popular topics? (ie the Davinci Code)
5. what are your characters trying to do?

Google is your best friend

1. search for pictures of a theme, character, creature, place, etc. that you feel represents your book. You’ll come across some cool (and weird) things, and may give you direction.
2. see what others writing about similar topics are using for titles. Make sure your title isn’t too close to another’s.
3. get some more backstory on an item, relic, place, or animal in your story. Again, think muse…

Have fun

1. play up on words and items in your book (ie One of our newest books due out next summer is “Of Quills and Kings,” in which the villan is a demonic and sadistic hedgehog that overthrows the crown…)
2. be witty. You are trying to grab science fiction/fantasy/horror/etc fans, not collegiate professors that enjoy spending all of their waking hours with their pet rock. Uh…
3. be original. You want to stand out, but don’t be too off-beat that you scare people away.

Writing Classes

Are they worth it? Besides college credits, which ones are recommended?

Well, really it depends. Mostly on what you want the classes for. In my opinion, rather than classes, you’d be better off joining a writer’s group, or going to a retreat, in order to interact with others and to get feedback, commentary, critiques, etc. from others that are interested and write on items/topics similar to yours.

While taking a writing class for a crash course in writing: such as background on the novel, understanding fiction, history of fiction, or a marketing class with emphasis on book marketing, the problem really (and don’t take this personal if you’re a teacher) is the professor.

Why? Well, because whether the class is online or in a classroom, you are learning from one person. One person who has their own particular interests, style likes and dislikes, genre preferenes, etc. When you’re experienced with writing, and have finished your book, short story, etc., it’s fine to work with someone one on one (like with an editor or agent) because you already know what you want in your story. Yet if you’re getting prodded into a specific direction when you’re first starting out, then many times you don’t learn to create your own voice or style, and tend to be more restrictive on your writing style and even your plot.

On the other hand, with writing groups or communities, you can write what and how you want, and then post it or bring it to the meeting looking for critique from several writers. This way, you’ll get varying opinions and suggestions, and you can pick and choose what to take into consideration for your next draft and which ones to ignore.

Though don’t get me wrong, not all classes are bad, and some really can be helpful if you’re looking to delve into a new genre or style that you’ve never experienced before. They’re also a nice refresher if you’ve been out of the loop of literatue for a while.

Below are a few links to both online writing communities, as well as courses that you can take online in the traditional one-on-one setting.

Classes:

http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/
Hosted by Writer’s Digest, this is a very legitimate writing school and has a large variety of classes and workshops available.

http://www.writers.com
Listed as one of Writer’s Digest top 101 sites for 2006. Site has been hosting online classes since 1995.

http://www.writingclasses.com/
Gotham Writers’ Workshop, teaches more than 6,000 students a year. Breaks classes up into different genres, styles, and lengths.

Writing Groups:

http://www.writing.com
An excellent writing community with free author portfolios, forums, and a nice critiquing system.

http://www.thenextbigwriter.com
Another nice community, not sure on whether they charge for memberships.

http://www.firstwriter.com
A forum-style community that allows posting of work and critiques.

http://www.deviantart.com
Not only a writing community, per se, it also includes artwork, but it has a nice posting and free portfolio, and a simple to use critique and comment system.

I’m out of ideas….

Well, I’m fresh out of ideas right now as to what to post here on the blog. So if anyone has an idea or suggestion about something they’d like me to write about; such as descriptions, dialogue, characters, editing, etc., please leave a comment and let me know. If there’s only one comment, I’ll write on that. If there’s several, I’ll pick something that will hopefully cover the majority.

Abaculus Cover Art Posted

Well I said we would post it, so here it is. The the finalized cover art for Abaculus 2007.
Abaculus 2007 Leucrota Press

Abaculus is due out December 7, 2007.

For more information on how to submit for Abaculus 2008, click here.