Prizeworthy : Literary Fiction Awards

Here we are in the middle of literary awards season. The Nobel, the Booker, the Pulitzer, and here in Canada the Giller, the Governor General’s Awards and many more. (Just in time for Christmas.)

Why are there so many of these awards? And why are most of them for so-called “literary” fiction? There are a few awards for genre fiction, such as the Nebula Award for science fiction and the Golden Dagger Award for crime fiction, but they don’t have the profile of the literary prizes.

I think the answer has to do with a fundamental difference between literary fiction and genre fiction. Genre fiction is self-serve. Everyone knows what to expect from a book labelled “mystery” or “romance” or “science fiction,” but literary fiction is random. It can be about anything or nothing. It’s idiosyncratic and nuanced, full of symbols and allusions, and often ends ambiguously. A degree in creative writing may be useful for reading as well as writing it. Lit-fic is popular among book clubs whose discussions use words like Zeitgeist and oeuvre.

However intimidating, literary fiction has the allure (for some) of the Higher Arts. One cannot swim in this rarefied sea unaided. Readers need expert guidance in the pathless country of lit-fic. Newspapers and mainstream magazines such as Time or Maclean’s used to have book sections, but they are becoming scarce.  More and more, the critics’ seal of approval takes the form of the literary award. Once the annual crop of awards is out, those who wish to be known as “well-read” know exactly which books to buy and read (or at least skim). A recent clever development is the announcement of long-lists and shortlists in the run-up to an award, so the benefits of the awards may be spread among more authors (and their publishers).

But what about self-published literary fiction? Most successful indie authors write and publish genre fiction. Is being “literary” the kiss of death to a self-published book? In the world of indie authors, there are no high-profile awards, backed by financial institutions and bestowed by panels of Eminent Writers. No one is telling the reading public, “This is the indie book everyone should read,” condemning to eternal obscurity many an artfully-written work expressing the anomie of a disaffected protagonist in an indifferent world.

 

4 activities to avoid as a newly published indie author

Audrey Driscoll:

Yes, I’ve done all five of those things. Good to know I’m not alone. And I have every intention to start on my next book, any day now.

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:

11.07.15-ast_ft_decision-signs-421913814_582_387 Congratulations, you’ve made it. You’ve uploaded your ebook and cover, entered a sales blurb and selected your product categories. You’ve decided on a price, agreed to the terms & conditions and finally, with no small amount of trepidation, pressed publish. Within a few hours an email arrived to confirm your book is live. You are now a published author. The next thing to do, of course, is let everybody know. So you spend a few hours promoting your launch on your social media of choice, phoning friends and family, sending emails and mentioning it to everybody you meet. This is great. Enjoy the moment. But then what? What should you do next? Well here are five things I recommend you don’t do.

Constantly check your sales stats

While the sensible advice is to write the book you want to read, in reality most of us write books we hope others will read. When you publish your…

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Meet Guest Author Audrey Driscoll

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

Audrey Aug 31 2014

I guess I always knew I would end up writing a book. As a child I loved reading books, and realize now that I was interested in how stories were constructed as well as how they turned out. I dimly recall working out scenes and bits of dialogue in my head, before I ever had any intention of writing anything down. I made my friends act out little dramas based on my favourite book at the time – Kipling’s Jungle Book. In high school I wrote my first “novel” – some sort of ancient Egyptian adventure inspired by the novels of Joan Grant, who claimed that they were records of her past lives.

This habit of seizing on works by other people and making them my own was responsible for my “real” novels. As a years-long fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I was curious about his story “Herbert West, Reanimator,”…

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Acceptance and Anxiety: garden blogs vs. writers’ blogs

I’m both a gardener and a writer. My blog posts are split between these two interests, which may not be the best idea for finding a readership, but it means I can usually come up with something to post about.

The blogs I follow are similarly divided, although there are more on writing than gardening. Going through the daily accumulation of posts in my reader, I’ve noticed something interesting. Garden blogs are way more relaxed than writers’ blogs. Even when reporting winter losses or projects that didn’t work out, gardeners display acceptance. They celebrate what is, even while aspiring toward new challenges (getting blue poppies to stay alive and bloom again, for example).

Writers’ blogs, on the other hand, seethe with frantic anxiety, always concerned with the right way to do this and the wrong way to do that. How to get motivated. The right way to start a novel. Ten words you should never use. Why you must hire a professional editor. The best ways to market, make sales and self-promote. Stern admonitions that Writing is a Business. There’s so much at stake for writers! They’re running as hard as they can, looking behind at the competition snapping at their heels. I see so many pleas for honest reviews and for advice on using social media. So many shoals of blue links to books, websites and blogs. Look! Buy! Read! Review!

Just writing that paragraph has made me a bit weary and discouraged. If writing is such a creative joy (and I know it is), it’s sad that bringing the fruits of one’s efforts to the attention of those who might appreciate them should be such a painful struggle. If no one buys your books, you’re a failure.

Gardening can be a struggle too, but usually it’s a physical one — moving yards of soil or compost, chopping roots, spending hours doubled over pulling up weeds, getting dirty, hot and sweaty. The rewards of these efforts, though, are immediate and unequivocal. But there’s another difference, a more subtle one: gardeners live in the hand of Nature, which is eternal. There’s always another year, another plant, another reason to hope.

September 26, 2014

MetalMonth – author feature: Audrey Driscoll

Thanks to The Opening Sentence for featuring the Herbert West Series as part of Metal Month!

A Fall/Winter Reading Challenge!

To celebrate fall and anticipate winter — great seasons for reading — I am issuing a friendly challenge to readers who are up for a “big read.”

You can acquire all four books of the Herbert West Series for free in exchange for thoughtful comments about the series.

Accept the challenge with a comment to this post, and then follow this link and enter the secret codes at checkout. They will cease to work at midnight on October 1st, so act now!

Book 1, The Friendship of Mortals  QP85L

Book 2, Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey  CA25C

Book 3, Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure  ZY56H

Book 4, Hunting the Phoenix  BQ87N

You will be undertaking to read upward of half a million words, which will take time, but I hope to see comments on Goodreads, Smashwords or your blogs by the vernal equinox — Friday, March 20th, 2015.

 

The Herbert West Series_final.

 

Winding Down and Gearing Up

The garden is definitely in an end-of-summer state. Yesterday I picked almost all the tomatoes and “decomissioned” all but two of the ten plants. This was a stellar summer for tomatoes — nice and warm — and I somehow got the soil mix for their pots just right. I used mushroom manure instead of steer manure. I seem to recall that mushroom manure (“I didn’t know mushrooms did that”) has a higher pH. Maybe that was it, or maybe mixing in the stuff quite generously did the trick.

Perfect Tomatoes!

Perfect Tomatoes!

 

Despite 22 mm. (nearly an inch) of rain a couple of weeks ago, the soil is really dry. The wretched Norway maples are dropping leaves by the bushel — ugly, khaki-coloured leaves that give the garden a slovenly air. Raking them up perked things up instantly.

The dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ continues to put forth blooms and buds. I top-dressed it with the mushroom manure soil mix and slow-release fertilizer back in June. And the potted delphiniums are starting their second flush of bloom — much better than the first one. Together they add some freshness to the tired scene.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

Delphinium and Dahlia

Delphinium and Dahlia

Gardening is never done. I always have a list of Things to Do and little projects to work on. This fall I’ll be starting on something I think of as the Boulevard Project. There is a 12-foot wide stretch of scruffy lawn between the front part of my place and the sidewalk. Technically, this belongs to the municipality, and nothing must be planted on it except grass and municipal trees (flowering cherries on our street). But of course weeds creep in. A stretch of boulevard next to mine boasts a huge crop of what I think of as “leathery dandelions” although they are really something called hairy cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris radicata). “Weed” is definitely the word for them. They send puffballs of seeds all over the place, and it’s becoming a struggle to hoick out plants that have come up in my scruffy grass.

I’ve decided there is nothing particularly attractive about stretch of scruffy grass and ugly weeds, so I’m going to introduce some tough (and yes, weedy) plants to provide something besides yellow and puffballs to the scene. I have grown from seed a couple of plants of chicory (Cichorium intybus), which has gorgeous sky-blue dandelion-shaped flowers. Once established, the plants can be cut short to encourage them to bloom close to the ground. Blue dandelions! I’ll pair them up with beach peas (Lathyrus japonicus), which look like sweet peas in shades of pink (and some whites), but are a lot tougher. Sadly, they are scentless, but look good with the blue chicory flowers.

All of this may come to naught, like many garden plans. Weeds, when grown on purpose, sometimes become temperamental and die, as if to prove that they will not be manipulated.

Self-Publishing Expenses Gone Wild!

Audrey Driscoll:

Excellent advice, both in this post and comments. Writers, don’t go into debt to publish; that will turn your creative act into a burden and a worry. As to marketing, spend your energy on writing another good book. And another. Once you hit critical mass, the books market each other. (Or so I hope).

Originally posted on chrismcmullen:

Editing Cloud

SELF-PUBLISHING EXPENSES

One of the major benefits of self-publishing is that you can do it (virtually) for FREE.

And, if you set a reasonable list price, the royalty rates are very high.

So with high royalties and minimal costs, if you can stimulate any sales at all, you should easily make something.

There is very little risk.

However, the number of authors who are investing big $$$ in self-publishing and who are losing big $$$ because their self-publishing expenses greatly outweigh their profits is staggering.

HOW MUCH DOES SELF-PUBLISHING COST?

It can cost next to nothing:

  • Zero set-up fees at print-on-demand indie publishing companies like CreateSpace.
  • Zero set-up fees at most major e-book publishing services like Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, and Kobo.
  • Minimal cost to order one or more printed proofs for paperback books.

If it costs you next to nothing, you don’t…

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Priming the Brain Pump: Research for Fiction Writing

So I’m finally going to write another novel. (I figure I have three more books in me). This one will be a sequel to the Herbert West Series. The main character is Herbert West’s granddaughter. The setting is Egypt, specifically Luxor and the Valley of Kings, in the 1960s. Which means I need to do some research.

There is a vast difference between a piece of fiction whose subject is a place and its history and one that uses a place or a time as a setting. Historical fiction explores and extrapolates real events and people. My book will not be about the political or social situation in Egypt in the 1960s; the story will unfold against the background of the archaeological sites near Luxor. It must of necessity unfold in the 1960s because the main character was born in the early 1940s.

It’s a given that writing historical fiction requires intensive and extensive research, but all writers are obligated to get their backgrounds and settings right. Many mystery and romance novels feature occupations, professions or crafts. Amateur detectives who are veterinarians, potters or chefs abound. The main character of my Herbert West series worked part-time as a mortician while in medical school (in the 1910s). Getting the details of that situation right required considerable research, as will my new project.

So how will I go about doing research for the new book?

The first and most important thing is to load up my brain with stuff about Egypt and Egyptology — the landscape, the climate, the texture of the grit underfoot as one walks in the Valley of Kings, the smells and sounds of dawn, midday, sunset, evening and night. The language of archaeology, the types of people encountered in the bureaucracy of antiquities and at sites being excavated. I’m doing this by reading — a great deal of reading. Accounts of travel, contemporary and historical, descriptions of archaeological discoveries, even the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Once I’ve absorbed this material, some of it will colour my writing in the correct hues and shades. I will be able to speak with authority as my plot unreels.

The best thing, of course, would be to go there, to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. The brain-loading process would then be direct and personal. But I can’t do that right now, so must be content with vicarious experiences. Reading about travel is much simpler than doing it. I can benefit from others’ distilled experiences and impressions without having to spend time, energy and money on the mechanics of travel and tourism. A great by-product of all the reading is that in the process I get ideas for scenes and plot details.

This kind of research is different from fact-checking, which is important but relatively easy, now that we have Wikipedia and other online information troves. Would my main character travel from Cairo to Luxor by train? Exactly when did the Six-Day War start? What was the political situation in Egypt at the time? I need to know these and many other things so as to avoid embarrassing blunders, but I can track down such facts when I need them. The background reading must be done first, to prime the pump, as it were.

I read somewhere that research for fiction writing is like an iceberg — only about one tenth of it should make an actual appearance in the story. Just because I gather a raft of interesting facts doesn’t mean I have to weave them into the plot. It isn’t like writing an essay in school, where you have to show all the stuff you’ve learned. The writer’s business is the fictional story and the characters playing it out.

Finally, I have to say that this feels weird. So far, I’ve written all my books off-line, beavering away in my subterranean writing room on a computer without an internet connection. Writing a blog post about writing a book is doing things backwards. On the other hand, having committed myself here, I had better just go and deliver. The plan is to have a first draft by spring.

300+ Global Ebook Outlets? It’s As Easy As One-Two-FREE!

Audrey Driscoll:

Sounds like the world’s our Oyster… Get uploading, fellow indies!

Originally posted on Ebook Bargains UK Blog:

Go Global In 2014

We all know the ebook market is going global. But for most indie authors it seems we’re still partying like it’s 2009. Many of us are still exclusive with one store, or in so few other outlets that we may as well be.

Meanwhile that international ebook market just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So just how many global ebook stores can we indie authors get our ebooks into without taking out a second mortgage and busting a blood vessel?

How does over 300 sound?

 ~

 Amazon has eleven Kindle sites, but readers in Ireland, Belgium, Monaco, St. Marino, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand can buy from neighbouring Kindle stores without surcharges, as can South Africans. So effectively nineteen outlets covered there.

NB In theory many other countries (by no means all – over half the world is blocked totally) can buy from AmCom, but sending readers to Amazon US…

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