Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Around the Word

Self-pub skeptic: While there is a lot of enthusiasm for self-publishing as a "bright spot" in our changing media industry, not everyone is so convinced of its merits. Novelist and writer for The Millions Edan Lupecki gave her "Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011–2012: A List," highlighting several problems with self-pub enthusiasm, such as overlooking small presses, finding an audience, and signing yourself over to the all-mighty Amazon. Does Lupecki have a point? Or is she just a luddite?

Non-required readings: Author readings used to be the bread and butter of a book tour, but with shortening attentions spans and higher expectations for author engagement, many audiences aren't happy to sit through several chapters read aloud. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the changing nature of the book tour, which now often includes extras like a lecture, presentation, interview, or panel discussion. Is this change for the best, or do you miss the old-fashioned readings?

WordPress to printing press: Social media guru Chris Brogan turned his attention to digital publishing this week, highlighting a new company called PressBooks. PressBooks lets authors create books using WordPress and format them for print, e-books, and tablets. Check out an interview on his site with the founder of PressBooks where they discuss the publishing e-volution.

Collapse of the E-uro? The European debt crisis and fragility of the Euro have been grabbing headlines for weeks, but Publishing Perspectives has taken a narrower view of Europe's economic woes: Would a collapse of the Euro slow European e-book adoption? The Euro is attractive for e-book distributors because it facilitates easier transactions and eliminates foreign exchange fees. Do you think the end of the Euro would also end the e-book?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Post: 5 Book Proposal Musts by Ally Peltier

Today we bring you a guest post by writer, editor, and publishing consultant Ally Peltier. She's here to help you write your book proposal—the right way!

Most publishers don’t expect or want nonfiction authors to complete their manuscripts before submitting. Instead, such books are often sold to publishers based on the strength of their proposals. With so much riding on this one document, you have to be prepared to make the best pitch possible to agents and/or publishers. Make sure to do these five critical things, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that book deal.

Must #1: Research the submission requirements. Submission guidelines are usually found on a publishing company or agent’s website. These will explain how you should prepare and submit your proposal materials, including specifications for format types, snail mail vs. electronic delivery, reading dates, and more. Some agents/publishers will want a query letter first; some will ask for sample chapters right off the bat. Some want one chapter, some want three. Guidelines can be very specific, so you will likely need to create multiple versions of your proposal to suit different agents/publishers. Always defer to your target audience’s expressed preferences.

Must #2: Answer the question, “Why am I the right person to write this book?” Your “about the author” section is more than just a bio. It should highlight the specific experiences and professional credentials that have uniquely prepared you (or your client) to author this book. If you've been published before, provide information about the book's publisher, publication date, and sales figures.

Must #3: Address why this book needs to be published now. Your proposal needs to make a strong case for urgency. Perhaps your book touches on a growing trend or satisfies a burgeoning need. Maybe there’s a newsworthy aspect, or you might be presenting new research or updated information. Even evergreen subjects must be justified with regard to timeliness: Has it been a decade since the category bestseller was published, or do new technologies or philosophies provide a fresh approach to an old problem? You have to convince publishers that readers will shell out cash for your project today.

Must #4: Include plenty of market research. Your proposal must highlight a thoroughly developed book concept, show that you’ve researched your intended audience, and demonstrate that you have a platform appropriate for your book. Effectively illustrating these things proves that you understand book promotion, which is increasingly an author’s responsibility. Marketing and publicity departments will look to your proposal as a resource for developing a promotion plan, so it needs to indicate where they can expect sales and valuable attention. Use your imagination and make your agent/publisher see dollar signs.

Must #5: Distinguish your project from the competition. The claim that a book has no competition is very rarely true; more often, this reveals a lack of understanding and effort, and can even hint that the author might be a “problem child.” Agents/publishers will expect you to list two to five competing or comparative titles and to positively distinguish your book from them. If there are no direct competitors, list books on topics that come closest or address a similar audience. This gives publishers an idea of how robust the market is for your book, and how to position it among existing titles in the category. Get sales figures if you can, and note which books are bestsellers, have gone through multiple editions, have been translated into other languages, etc. If the publisher or agency you’re approaching has similar books on its list, be sure to include those so you can point out differences and explain why they should still publish your book.

A well-developed book proposal takes a lot of the guesswork out of a seemingly risky process. It needs to be well-written, organized, and complete. You may have the greatest idea for a book ever, but if your proposal is poorly conceptualized or lacking critical information, no agent or publisher will feel confident betting on you. So put the same effort into your proposal that you will ultimately put into your book, cover these five "musts," and increase your chances of getting that publishing contract!

Ally E. Peltier is an editor, writer, and publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge of the publishing industry and more than a decade of experience to help others reach their publishing goals, whether it’s showing a writer how to improve his manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish, or ghostwriting a book to help an entrepreneur skyrocket her business platform to new levels. Grab Ally’s free white papers and learn more about her services at and

Monday, November 28, 2011

Around the Word

Cure for your shopping hangover. How was your Black Friday? We hope you didn't get trampled, looted, or pepper-sprayed. For those who stayed home—or those who wish they had—Huffington Post has a list of dystopian novels that seem rather apropos. As Madeline Crum says in the article, "What would Aldous Huxley or Ray Bradbury have to say about a society willing to fight for 40% off a dress or a complementary tote? Or did they already say it in their books?" 

The tweeting gene? The Guardian has started a new series where science writer Anna Perman deconstructs a complicated genetic theory for us lay-readers. The inaugural post is about the gene FOXP2, which is responsible for communication. It affects many different animals; a mutation on the gene in a human leaves the person with dysphoria, and "knock out this gene in birds and they have problems with – well – tweeting."

Famous rejects. Rejection letters are a fact of life for any writer, no matter how famous. Don't believe us? Check out Flavorpill's compilation of some of the harshest rejections in history, send to luminaries like Gertrude Stein, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, and more.

Delicious mashups. Did you hear about #LiteraryTurducken? Doubleday started a new Thanksgiving tradition with this tweet: "The #LiteraryTurducken combines not one, not two, but three classic works into one, in the spirit of the turkey+duck+chicken creole classic." We got pretty excited about the game here at GG; here's what we came up with:
  • From GG's president @DanGerstein, continuing the bird theme: "The Maltese Falcon Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Kill a Mockingbird."
  • From our associate Oriana, "The Devil Wears Prada in the White City of Glass," and, via her Brooklyn blog @brooklynspaces: "A Tree Grows in the Last Exit to Motherless Brooklyn."
  • From our writer friend @kerryzukus: "Rich Dad's Chicken Soup For Dummies."
Got any to add? Or maybe you want to save 'em for next Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Around the Word

Copycats: Inspired by the recent plagiarism scandal involving Brooklyn thriller novelist Q.R. Markham, Stuart Kelly at the Guardian takes a look at the history of plagiarism. In our constantly shifting new-media landscape, sometimes it can be hard to tell what is a mash-up and what is a copy. As Kelly points out, at least it was fans who detected Markham's misdeed and not a computer program -- showing that "real reading still exists."

Just the right recommendation: One inventive bookseller is combining the popularity of online shopping with the personal touches of a brick-and-mortar store. Roxanne Coady founded the website Just The Right Book, where subscribers can take quizzes, get personalized book recommendations from Coady's staff, and often earn coupons toward purchasing the books. Is this digital-analog combo the way of the future?

To link or not to link? One topic of hot debate in the e-book world is the pros and cons of including links. We've written about the anti-link position before, but now another author has weighed in on the side of links. David Meerman Scott tells GalleyCat, "It means you can check out the Twitter feed of the expert cited in the text. You can see the cool picture that was once worth 1,000 words." How do you feel about e-book links?

Literary locales: Looking for a vacation with some literary inspiration? National Geographic has picked the ten most literary places in the world. Although New York doesn't make the list, Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C. are the two most literary cities in the U.S. Which city do you think has the most word nerds?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Writer Profile: Erin Martin

We're starting a new regular feature here on the BloGG: Writer Profiles! As you can imagine, Gotham Ghostwriters knows a lot of writers, all of whom are working on exciting projects. If you're wondering what goes on in a writer's head on a typical writer's day, this series will give you some insight.  

Our inaugural profilee is longtime GG friend and writer Erin Martin, a former reporter for the Hartford Courant and deputy press secretary to U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. A graduate of Stanford University, Erin has managed political development programs in post-apartheid South Africa and Namibia. She also worked for The September 11th Fund, a World Trade Center relief organization, and for a Madison Avenue communications consultancy. She lives in New York City.

GG: What's a typical "writer's day" for you?
EM: The only certainty in my day is that first cup of coffee.  After that, it all depends. Thankfully, no two days are the same!

GG: What's the most rewarding writing project you've done?
EM: As someone whose livelihood depends on versatility in writing, I try to find something rewarding in every project. I don’t ever want to feel that I’m writing something for the paycheck, or that the final product doesn’t matter to me. Not caring about the project = poor product and bored writer.

That said, the most rewarding projects have been ones in which I felt that my writing captured the essence of a person, place, or situation. Two leaders in that category are the newly released Fit to Serve, the book I did with Jim Hormel, America’s first openly gay ambassador, and another memoir I did through Gotham, a rags-to-riches story about a Bombay woman who came to the U.S. and made a fortune in radiology.

What do you do when you're not writing?
I support my writing habit with short-term communications consulting. Interesting recent gigs included a project in Bosnia to promote intellectual property rights, and another in Kosovo to explain and drum up support for the country’s new tax system.

What's the toughest thing about being a writer?
Discipline. The tiniest of writing roadblocks can prompt my socks to yell from their drawer, demanding re-organization, or cause cookbooks to throw themselves off the shelves and open to a must-make-this-tonight recipe.

What are some great writer resources you depend on?
I used to find inspiration in hearing authors discuss their work, until one afternoon at Lincoln Center I heard a Peruvian short-story writer counseling artists to cancel their magazine and newspaper subscriptions, cut off their cable television, and shut themselves off to all outside voices. His suggestion was extreme, but the ideas of eliminating extraneous chatter and looking internally for guidance appealed to me. What that means, I guess, is that I strive to let my own voice be my number one resource. 

Around the Word

Libyan unbanning day: To great fanfare, Libya had a ceremonial book-unbanning last week, reports The Star. Accompanied by bagpipes, intellectual and political heavies gathered for the celebration. The ground floor of the palace-turned-library was lined with books, and tables were piled high with more. "This is a major moment for us because this is where we reclaim our intellectual freedom," said one attendee, human-rights activist Hassan al-Amin. "We say goodbye to an era where free thinking was forbidden, where ideas were dangerous."

Freelance tweeting: Everyone's trying to find the best, most effective ways to use social networking. For a freelancer, Twitter can be an invaluable tool. MediaBistro's AllTwitter blog has a great primer on the benefits Twitter offers to freelancers, from networking to marketing to finding work, as well as gaining some insight into the daily lives and schedules of other freelancers. How have you used Twitter in your freelance career?

Speech stunner: GalleyCat calls our attention to the standout speech at last week's National Book Awards. Nikky Finney, whose book Head Off & Split won the poetry award, spoke beautifully of history, slavery, and the people who have inspired her throughout her writing career. The whole of the awards are watchable on the site, and you can find Finney's speech around minute 17.

Navigating self-publishing: If you're a new writer, or a writer unfamiliar with the weird and wonderful world of book publishing, it can be quite overwhelming to decide how to proceed. If you're thinking about going the self-publishing route, check out Wicked Tricksy's roundup of great resources for newbies. In addition to the blogs of several self-publishing stars, they offer a reasoned argument against getting your data from writer forums. Do you know of any great self-publishing sites not included in this list?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Around the Word

Novel dysfunction: If the prospect of spending Thanksgiving with your family makes you feel less than grateful, consider turning to some literary inspiration for dealing with dysfunctional families. In honor of the holiday, Ploughshares Literary Magazine put together a list of the books about the darkest, craziest and unhappiest families. What's your favorite book about family feuds?

Fired up: Amazon's newest e-reader -- the tablet-style Kindle Fire -- has finally arrived, and the reviews are lukewarm. Slate technology writer Farhad Manjoo gives his take on the Fire, characterizing it as "underachieving" but priced low enough that it could successfully compete with the iPad. Manjoo also predicts that the Fire will lead to even more book sales than previous Kindles. Will you be buying a Fire this holiday season?

Unreasonable lending? In other Amazon news, the Authors Guild is pretty unhappy with Amazon's other new feature: the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. The AG issued a statement arguing that the lending library falls outside the realm of most publishing licensing contracts. They also have some tips for getting your book taken out of the library if it's there without your permission, GalleyCat reports. Is the Lending Library a good thing for authors, or a backhanded move by Amazon?

Best of the web: As any web-surfing word nerd knows, there's tons of writing advice on the Internet -- some of it good, and some if it not so good. Over at the Writing Resource, Erin Brenner compiled a list of her favorite advice on the writing process, from getting started to keeping your readers' attention. Do you have an article on writing that you refer to again and again?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Around the Word

Book rebellion: Bibliophiles were shocked and appalled when the police officers dismantling the Occupy Wall Street camp at Zucotti Park confiscated the "People's Library" of over 5,000 books. But Jeremiah Moss, a blogger and author who writes about New York, believes that this kind of high-profile destruction could be just the publicity that books need to combat their old-fashioned image. Despite what ebook retailers and gadget-o-philes will have us believe, he argues, print books aren't fusty, they're revolutionary. "Seeing large numbers of books together in one place has the power to stir emotions," he writes. "And the People's Library was this kind of powerful place -- not virtual, but real. E-readers like the Kindle do not have this power. They don't burn and therefore do not, by the spectacle of their burning, shock us into action."

Publishing faces the music: The music and publishing industries have gone through similar changes due to the digital e-volution. Both music and books have seen an increase in digital sales, a drop in digital prices and a slew of piracy problems. To investigate what each industry can learn from the other, FutureBook has created a four-part series on the digitization of books and music, written by experts who have worked in both industries. Do you think the comparison is apt?

Ye olde sociale networke: Though we often feel like we're in a time of unprecedented change for communication and technology, Stanford professor and language blogger Cynthia Haven points out that the 17th century was also a time of expanding social networks. The postal system allowed people to communicate like never before, and there was even a Twitter-like trend of scattering bits of paper with revolutionary poems written on them throughout the streets of Paris. Check out her article if you need some inspiration to stay on top of your social media strategy. If Voltaire wrote 10 to 15 letters per day, you can surely send out a few 140-character Tweets.

Give the gift of literacy: Even though it's not even Thanksgiving yet, the holidays are looming. And since that means beginning to think about gifts, GalleyCat has compiled a list of ten charities that promote literacy and reading. These organizations provide books to those in need throughout the United States and around the world. Do you have a favorite language-loving charity that should be added to the list? Tell us in the comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Around the Word

Ghosts in high places. You never know who's writing what. In a strange ghostwriting story, Mike Winder, the mayor of West Valley City, Utah, has admitted to penning articles for local media outlets under a pseudonym. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Winder felt local newspapers had cut their coverage of city government after layoffs, and he wanted to "try to restore balance." The mayor "defended using a pen name, citing famous authors who wrote under pseudonyms, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison." What do you think -- dishonest or smart?

Why you? Why now? Are you struggling to perfect your nonfiction book proposal? Over at her blog, Gotham Ghostwriting friend Ally Peltier has a got plenty of advice for you. Her article "Beat Intimidation: Start Writing Your Nonfiction Book Proposal" gives a meta view of the proposal-writing process, with prompts to get you thinking about what the different aspects of your proposal need to do to be successful.

How does a book become a book? Unless you work in the media industry, you may find the book-publishing process a bit mystifying. But fear not: Publishing Trends has a great piece that clearly illustrates the whole thing. "Life Cycle of a Book" details everything a manuscript goes through on its long trip toward publication. Watch video clips of industry professionals in all the different roles to gain a clearer understanding of what to expect once you get that book deal.

Bully for you. All writers get edited; of course, some appreciate the process more than others. At The Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog, Carol Saller asks, "Are copyeditors bullies?" Fortunately she concludes that they're not, saying, "Although I can't deny that bad editing happens, there is almost always recourse. Starting with the assumption that you can work things out is the best way to get results." Do you agree? Have you ever felt bullied by your copyeditor? Tell us in the comments.

Poll results: "Awesome" is awesomely irritating

When Ragan wrote about the top ten intensifiers you should absolutely, positively avoid, we were inspired to ask our writers for their opinion. As the results from an informal poll of our Facebook network show, "awesome" is by far the most annoying adjective.

Alan Perlman, a writer in our network with a PhD in linguistics, had this to say about intensifiers: "Adjectives and intensifying adverbs both tend to weaken in meaning and are progressively replaced by stronger terms. Some people over-rely on 'really' or 'literally,' as if everything else is imaginary."

Other finalists for most annoying intensifier included "excellent," "incredible" and "cool." Writer James Buchanan made a convincing case for "interesting" and "interestingly" as well: "As I have learned, merely saying something is interesting does not make it so or do anything to denote why."

But author Kerry Zukus warns us about dismissing intensifiers out of hand, reminding us that "they are all fine for dialogue. Flesh-and-blood people use them in speech all the time, and I hate it when writers have Average Joes speaking as if they've just completed Finishing School."

Didn't get to vote in the poll, but want to add your two cents? Leave your nominations for worst intensifier in the comments.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Around the Word

Empire state of publishing: Would the rest of America buy more books if the publishing industry wasn't so concentrated in New York? Publishing Perspectives has posed that question, holding that the Manhattan- and Brooklyn-based publishing world can be too insular and self-referential. As they put it, "How many novels can someone in, say, Chicago or Atlanta read about a twenty-something Manhattan editorial assistant, junior Wall Street trader, or cupcake shop owner in Cobble Hill looking for love?"

Going up! Every professional word nerd knows the importance of the "elevator pitch." But in our increasingly digital work world, what if you only get to pitch over email or on your website, rather than in person? Don't worry: Men With Pens has some tips for making your pitches shine in the virtual elevator.

Tweet police: Twitter has become a minefield of potential ethical problems that writers have to navigate daily, especially journalists, for whom a misfired tweet can ruin your reputation, or even cost you your job. The AP recently released their social media guidelines and have turned their attention to retweeting -- as reported on 10,000 Words, journalists are advised to avoid retweeting anything with an opinion to avoid the appearance of endorsement. When it comes to social media, how objective should we expect journalists to be?

Getting your content fix: Need to spice up your blog? Digital marketing expert Jeff Bullas has ten "addictive" types of blog content that have been proven to boost traffic again and again. Reviews, how-tos, case studies and infographics all have readers coming back for more. What types of content would you add to the list? (h/t Ragan)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Around the Word

Writing the Occupation: Occupy Writers -- an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement -- has collected over 2,000 signatures and stories from writers who support the protest. Mediabistro interviewed Occupy Writers co-founder Kiera Feldman, who says they eventually hope to publish the responses they have collected. Will you be adding your voice?

Democra-tweets: Did you ever think your tweet could be read on the floor of the House of Representatives? Rep. Maxine Waters of California combined crowdsourcing and speechwriting to achieve a public-speaking first: she crafted a speech entirely from tweets and Facebook posts from her constituents. Head over to the Eloquent Woman to hear Walters deliver the speech.

Kick the habit, pick up a book: A couple of quirky publishers and designers are hoping books can be just as addictive as nicotine. According to Publishing Perspectives, German publisher Automatenverlag has repurposed cigarette automats to distribute books instead of cigarettes in the neighborhood around the University of Hamburg. And a UK design magazine has created miniature books that fit into cigarette packs. What's next? Cigars that turn out to be rolled-up newspapers?

Ay, there be pirates! With the rise of e-books, authors -- like musicians and filmmakers -- have become vulnerable to pirates roaming the high seas of the Internet. Fortunately, agent and blogger Rachelle Gardner has thrown you a life preserver in the form of a primer on Internet piracy. Have you ever found an illegal copy of your book floating around? What do you do to prevent piracy?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Around the Word

Virtually speaking: Speechwriting has been around since the days of ancient oratory, so how has it changed in the digital age? Gotham friend Hal Gordon explores this question in a recent post on Pundit Wire. Since a talk can be streamed virtually or posted to YouTube, speeches have been able to reach bigger audiences than ever before. And writers no longer have to focus so strongly on sound bites, since whole speeches can be put online instead of relying on brief clips in television coverage. Gordon's takeaway: "While speechwriters must adapt, we are hardly obsolete." For speech pros, how have you seen your job description change?

Eastern e-volution: Though digital self-publishing has been rapidly gaining speed in the West, our digital numbers are nothing like they are in China. According to a recent column on the Guardian's book blog, self-publishing websites are attracting more than 40 percent of all China's Internet users every month. The popular self-published titles are almost entirely genre fiction serials, which are free to download until they have reached a certain level of popularity, after which readers have to pay a few yuan for the new installments. What do you think? Is this "freemium" model something that could work in the West?

Linked out: There has been considerable angst in recent years about the Internet's detrimental effect on our reading attention spans. Shorter articles, flashing ads and a world wide web's worth of distractions just a click away make it harder to focus on reading a longer text online. But Rick Poyner on the Design Observer Group blog has identified another culprit for our inability to pay attention: hyperlinks. In an entirely link-free article, Poyner speculates that embedding hyperlinks into e-books may only degrade the reading experience by distracting our already-scattered attention. Are hyperlinks to blame for our inability to focus? Or is it all just a bunch of hype?

Good books: Though Andrew Carnegie is famous for having built more than 2,500 libraries around the world, an American philanthropost you've probably never heard of has built nearly five times that many. In yesterday's Sunday Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff spotlighted Room to Read, a charity founded by former Microsoft executive John Wood that provides books to children in remote and poor places around the world. In addition to opening an average of six libraries per day, Room to Read also sponsors girls who wouldn't normally be able to attend school. We're thrilled to see a charity promoting literacy get such prominent coverage and to see so many libraries -- 12,000 and counting -- being created in communities that need them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Around the Word

Ghost busting: MSNBC's Chris Matthews is not known for pulling his punditary punches, and this week he threw a couple haymakers that got a few ghostwriters' hackles up. In an interview with Forbes this week about his latest book on JFK, Matthews took umbrage at a question about whether he had any outside writing help -- with a more strongly-worded version of "Forget you." Matthews treated the insinuation as an attack on his character; "It’s amazing to me that you think I’m some lightweight, glib bulls**t artist that has somebody do his work for him," he said. Though we can appreciate that Matthews takes pride in his writing, attitudes like this perpetuate the stigma against ghostwriters and keep other experts from admitting when they've needed some professional help. What did you think?

Keeping up with the Kindles: Amazon announced its new Kindle Owners' Lending Library this morning, a service available to Kindle-owning Amazon Prime members. Members can download and "borrow" one e-book per month, keep it for as long as they want and then replace it with a new borrowed book when they're finished. The impact of this move is being hotly debated in the publishing world, and some speculate failure since none of the six largest publishers have signed on, according to the Wall Street Journal. But others see it as an opportunity to hook readers with a free book and then sell them other works by the same author or publisher. Is this what libraries will look like in the digital age?

Show your books some love: While spring may be the traditional time to clean house, fall is a great time to care for your books. New York Public Library conservationist Shelly Smith recently shared some easy tips for keeping your home library in top shape. Stable temperatures, regular dusting and avoidance of too much moisture and light are all necessary to make sure your books last a lifetime.

Publishing's manifest destiny? The Books in Browsers conference in San Francisco last week provided a valuable window into where technology and publishing are headed, according to a review by Publishing Perspectives. BIB11 was more focused on the high-tech UX (that's "user experience") than the traditional publishing elements -- "the words author, editor, agent, story and narrative were sparsely used." But the overall outlook for the future of books (or rather, e-books) was sunny, and perhaps showing the conference's geographic tilt, moving westward. Check out the postmortem and let us know what you think. Is the balance of publishing power shifting to Silicon Valley?

E-wards: Have you written an e-book that you think is award-worthy? The Global Ebook Awards -- the brainchild of e-book advocate Dan Poynter -- are now accepting entries in fiction and non-fiction. All entries get a sticker for the cover of their book, and winners get a free listing in Publishers Marketplace as well as other exposure for their e-book. Will you be entering?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Around the Word

The celebrification of speechwriting: Speechwriters have traditionally toiled in the ghostly shadows, hiding their identities so that their speakers could shine. But as our friend David Meadvin at Inkwell Strategies points out this week, more and more speechwriters are experiencing a little bit of the limelight -- like President Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau, a subject of continued media interest. Meadvin, who wrote for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), attributes the change to to the 24-hour news cycle and the revealing power of the Internet, as well as the fact that most people now expect that speakers work with a writing team. We are curious to hear from our speech pros -- how do you feel about this celebrification trend?

Finding the fun in corporatespeak: When you liase with your clients, can you get them to drink the Kool-Aid? After a failed elevator pitch, did you reverbiagize your proposal? Are you opening the kimono on the lack of deliverables? Corporate-speak can be rife with ridiculous terms, and sitting through a meeting where they're used in earnest would make anyone search for an exit strategy. To help make those conversations a bit more bearable, Laura Hale Brockway over at Impertinent Remarks has created a clever game called Word Quest. The way its played: you and an accomplice compete for who can best incorporate corporate jargon into a sentence during the meeting. Bonus points for getting someone else to use it. So drill down, grab that low-hanging fruit and incentivize some fun! And please share your winning sentences with us.

All about Odyl: A new Facebook app is aiming to engage readers with their favorite authors and publishers like never before. Officially launched in September, Odyl already has some prominent acolytes like Jane Fonda, Katie Couric and Bret Easton Ellis, reports Publishing Perspectives. The app streamlines the Facebook page, allowing authors to easily engage with readers by providing book excerpts, polls, quizzes and virtual gifts. Will you be trying out Odyl?

Twitterese: The influence of Twitter on language has been getting more and more attention lately, as movies scholars and movie stars alike are theorizing about how writing in 140 characters affects the way we think and engage. One side of the spectrum, researchers at Carnegie Mellon are using tweets to build maps of regional language use. On the other side, British actor Ralph Fiennes postulated recently that Twitter has degraded the English language to the point that people no longer use words longer than two syllables or sentences with more than one clause. Curious as this all is, though, the Economist's language blog suggests that Fiennes may be overreacting a twit, noting that tweets aren't very representative of the way we actually speak and write, given the character limits. Do you agree?

'Tis the season. . . . of tired cliches: Though we haven't even hit Thanksgiving yet, Baltimore Sun language guru John E. McIntyre hasn't wasted any time in heading off any possible holiday-themed linguistic tragedies. He provides a list of cheery cliches that should be avoided at all costs, including any "'tising," "'twasing," "white stuff," and Dickens references. Though he might come off as a grammar grinch, he definitely has a point -- it is hard to make a Twelve Days of Christmas parody read as fresh.