Monday, July 30, 2007

Correspondence Courses for Writers, Post 1 of 2

So What About Correspondence Schools for Writers?

Is it true that Stephen King took a correspondence course in fiction writing? Seems to me I read that somewhere--or maybe heard it said, though not by King. Larry Niven says he took the Writer’s Digest School course, though he didn’t complete it. Anyway, I get asked about correspondence courses for writers now and then and I know there are a good number of people are curious about them—often because they’re thinking about signing up for one. Stick with me and I’ll tell you quite a bit about correspondence schools in general, the Famous Writers’ School scandal, who teaches writing courses by mail, what they cost, and exactly what the student goes through—in three parts.

I’m not going to argue the question of whether writing can be taught. Nor do I buy into the “Those who can ... /Those who can't ...” crap. I’ve written several dozen published books (fiction and nonfiction), three dozen short stories, and going on two thousand magazine and other nonfiction pieces. Plus some radio scripts. I’ve taught writing (by correspondence and at writers’ conferences and in universities--both credit and non-credit courses and seminars), and some of my students have been published. I know people who have taken courses from other instructors, and succeeded. So, it can work. Whether it does depends on the student.

I think I’ve done everything there is to do with correspondence courses for writers. About 30 years ago I took one—and it got the idea of plot into my skull. A few years later I taught the same course (kind of like piecework by mail). And sometime in the late 1980s I helped design a new course in short-story writing.

So, are these things worth taking? Yes, though they are overpriced. But those I know about are worthwhile. (I’ll get to which courses I know about in a bit.)

There was a time when Famous Writers’ School and the Famous Artists’ School gave the whole arts correspondence course business a bad reputation. It seems that each had some big-name people on their “staffs.” Rod Serling was listed as being with the Famous Writers’ School, for example. (And may have remained on the staff after he was dead, I’m not sure.) The truth was, none of these people taught the courses, nor had anything much to do with them; the story is that the Famous Company just rented their names. I heard that what staff there was, wasn’t of sterling quality, but I don’t know that for sure.

And, although you had to take a "test" before you were accepted, the school had a reputation for accepting anyone, no matter how poor their writing. Apparently the test was simply a gateway to more intensive marketing.

Government agencies eventually got on to the outfit, and that was that. Other writing correspondence schools seemed to fade away for a while, although more than one general school (like the National Radio Institute) offered writing courses by mail.

But that was a long time ago and, for some people, far away. The current offerings I find in the writers’ magazines, like Writer’s Digest School (WDS) and The Longridge Writers' Group, are legit. Again, they’re overpriced, and the instructors are underpaid (which, to me, is more the crime). But they’re taught by writers who are currently publishing in their fields. As noted, I taught a WDS short story writing course for a while, and at the time I was published science fiction and detective stories, and novels. (SF and fantasy fans will be intersted to know that Barry Malzberg and others in the SF field have also taught these courses.)

That's the overview. Again, "Those who can .../Those who can't ..." is crap. Stay tuned; I'll get back to this in a few days.
(Addendum: It's been a few days: Click here for the second part of this.)
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Typewriter Memories ...

Hey, remember typewriters? Maybe you took Typing 1 in high school for an easy half-credit, like I did. I finished the semester with a C-minus and figured I’d never use a typewriter again.

Boy, was I wrong about that!

I wrote my first two published books on a portable manual typewriter. A used Smith-Corona Skywriter, to be exact. It had a steel cover that popped off to reveal a very low-profile machine whose platen rested at the same level as the top of the machine. It was about 2-1/2” tall all the way around—except for the fold-down carriage return lever, which stuck up another quarter inc.

I’d bought this at a yard sale in 1971, largely because I liked compact gadgets of all kinds, and this was the smallest typewriter I’d ever seen. The price was $12.50, the amount the seller said some recent repairs had cost her.

After I took the typer home, it became apparent that the shop that did the “repairs” had cheated her. The ribbon rewind didn't work; I had to stick a pencil in the take-up reel and rewind it every few pages.

But that wasn’t the machine’s only drawback. Despite my less-than-stellar performance in high school, I was still capable of typing fast enough to cause key-jams every couple of minutes. And my big hands on the small keyboard resulted in lots of typos. Which meant stopping to apply Liquid Paper, let it dry, and hope the overtyping would come out legible.

If not, I had to retype the entire page. I retyped a lot of pages, anyway. As I worked I was constantly finding flaws in my prose or the structure of the story or article I was writing. This usually meant I had to go back three or four pages, make some critical changes or additions, then and retype everything from there.

Between those and other logistical problems I’m surprised that I didn’t give up the idea of writing for publication. But I persisted, and soon was writing well enough that most first-draft pages were final draft. And I eventually started making enough money writing on the side that I afford to rent an electric typewriter—the bigtime!

A couple years later, I got my first computer and everything changed ...
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Friday, July 27, 2007

Understanding Public Domain, Copyright, Published, and Fair Use.

Just came across this post at Dick Margulis' blog. It is a very brief, very lucid explanation of the issues involved in copying text without permission. I recommend it if you have any questions at all about the difference between "published" and "public domain," Fair Use, or whether you need permission to use material that you've "found" on the Internet or in offline sources like books and magazines. Dick is a publishing professional and he's done an excellent job of summing up the sometimes confusing and often contentious issues involved.

I expect that most people reading this already understand these issues, but it doesn't hurt to review them. And if you have a blog, why not direct your readers to It would be a nice public service.

Learning to Write Better Dialogue by Observation

Some time back in the early 1980s, I recall science fiction author Larry Niven saying that he learned a lot about writing dialogue from reading Robert A. Heinlein's novels. That got my attention, and I pulled out copies of Niven's Ringworld and Heinlein's Starship Troopers and started comparing dialogue in scenes, side-by-side.

I learned a lot about dialogue from those observations. Dialogue techniques that I had missed in the past stood out clearly when I saw how Niven had borrowed or learned them from Heinlein. (Simple things like putting a short statement in its own paragraph for emphasis, plus many more subtle and complex techniques.)

I found the same when I paired these short-story collections: Niven's The Magic Goes Away with The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. Actually, any Niven/Heinlein combination will do.

Try it yourself. If you're not a science fiction reader, compare other writers' techniques. For example, contrast the dialogue techniques in A Painted House, by John Grisham, with those in Havana Bay, by Martin Cruz Smith. Better still, contrast Jane Smiley's dialogue in A Thousand Acres with Grisham's in A Painted House or the autobiographical The Coalwood Way, by Homer Hickam.

I guarantee that you'll learn more than you expected.
--Michael A. Banks
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

The Best How-To Guide to Dialogue I've Ever Read

I keep telling other writers (and would-be writers) that I'm going to show them the best how-to article on dialogue I've ever read. Real Soon Now.

The only problem is, I can't find it. And I wrote it. It was published in one of the three or four Writer's Digest Yearbooks that came out every year in the late 1980s. (I think it was the late 1980s.) Like so many other things, I've misplaced it or thrown it out accidentally. Bill Brohaugh, former editor of WD, sent a copy to me once, back in the early 1990s. And I lost that copy.

Writer's Digest itself can't help; in one of their moves they lost a lot of back issues of this and that.

In all modesty, this really is a good article. I'd like to update it. If anyone has a copy of the WD publication in which that appeared, please let me know. I'll gladly pay copying and mailing costs, or just buy the magazine from you.

Do You Have to Be Crazy to Be a Writer?

Creativity and/or high IQ are often associated with mental illness. I see the connections made in popular literature, writer's resources, and even professional journals. No one is certain about it, though. Which probably means that nobody ever got a grant to do a statistical study.

Of course, mental illness is not exclusive to writers or the highly intelligent. There are insane people who are not very smart, and criminals who are brilliant underachievers (true of many writers), just as there are intelligent people who are really bughouse. And certainly we've all seen our share of writing that proves that a given writer is nuts.

And then there are books that make you wonder if the publisher was nuts.

Anyway, it all leads to a question we writers are fond of asking one another: "Do you have to be crazy to be a writer, or does writing make you crazy?"

Personally, I think all writers are a bit off ... and I believe a touch of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is necessary if you're going to write a book with any alacrity. But writing can make you crazy in several ways. Repeated rejection of a good manuscript or idea, late payment, no payment, disappearing editors (a topic for a future post of its own), plagiarism, writer’s block ... but then, each career or avocation has its drawbacks.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Procrastinating Writers

I recently had conversations with several editors about writers who don't deliver on time (something that every new editor quickly learns is not uncommon). Most writers who deliver late are just plain procrastinators. They put off starting on books for weeks and even months. Some have to be forced into writing by nagging editors and agents, or by the need of money. One such was Harold Robbins, who is described in Another Life by Michael Korda as having to be watched over (on occasion, under literal lock and key) before he would finish a novel.

But what is procrastination? In this case it is a quick catch-all term that covers several reasons for writers being late. (Note: Now and then, writers are kept from writing by circumstances beyond their control, definitely not procrastination. Family problems, health issues, and bizarre things that no one would buy as fiction. I recall being really late with a book after being hit by a divorce and an auto accident within weeks of one another.)

So why do writers (like the aforementioned Harold Robbins) who are given plenty of time to write their books, and don't have any life emergencies between signing the contract and the manuscript delivery date, run late? Some writers get too comfortable; they have money, and there's loads and loads of time before the book is due, so why not take a few days (weeks, or months) off and enjoy it? At some point they realize that the deadline is on the horizon, and panic--which slows down writerly production something fierce. (Just about any emotion can slow production--fear, joy, hate, terror. Everything but love, in my experience. Love has been known to actually speed up writing!)

And then there are writers who are seized by fear as they get into their project--fear of being unable to complete it, fear of rejection, fear of not doing their best. This usually happens to first-time writers, but pros are not immune to the problem. A sudden change in the relationship between the editor or publisher and the author can make for delays--egos and attitudes, that sort of thing. Writers have also been known to slow down or stop working when advance checks don't arrive on schedule. And there's that mysterious malady, Writer's Block.

How to deal with this? Editors cope by harassing the writer--a surprisingly effective tactic. Some beg, some manipulate, and some threaten. (They may threaten to bring in another writer as permitted in the author's contract.) All's fair in the battle to bring in the manuscript on deadline.

And how do writers handle the situation? Many are in denial, so they do nothing but give in to pressure or threats, not a good working situation. Others will come up with all sorts of situations on which to place the blame for their tardiness, and still crank out a good manuscript really quickly.

The minority of writers who admit to themselves that they've been procrastinating just dig in and crank out quality chapters in impossibly short periods of time (I've been known to do that). And some produce really bad prose because they're trying to cram 6 months worth of work into 2 months. (Yet another reason why bad books get into print.) Of course, it's best to avoid the situation entirely.
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Does Being Famous Sell Books? Do You Have to Be Famous to Sell Books?

I recently read this in a business blog:

"... ideally you're supposed to be famous so people will buy your book."

Not true. Not even ideally. More often, publishers want writers who know their subjects and can turn in a good manuscript on time. By way of illustration: Over 20 years ago I wrote a book titled The Modem Reference (long out of print). I was merely a midlist science fiction writer at the time, and wasn't famous for anything public. But the book sold 200,000 copies.

If I wasn't famous, why did it sell so well? Because I brought the required knowledge to the book, and I wrote the book in an appealing, easy-to-understand style. When I started CROSLEY, a New York Times bestseller that also made the WSJ and Business Week bestseller lists, I brought only my style and technique, over five years of research, and enthusiasm to the book. I'm not known as a great biographer or historian, but since December, 2006, the book has sold more than 48,000 copies in hardcover.

Here again, I was not dealing with a subject area in which I was famous.

Point 1 of 2: The right knowledge, a good presentation, and great writing can sell books to the public--often more effectively than fame. And in the end publishers are out to sell books, not to link to fame, unless it's move-star level fame. (Not incidentally, as an editor I negotiated the deal for three of modern science fiction's bestselling novels ... written by an author who was a complete unknown at the time. Of course once that author became famous within the SF field, fame did help sell books.)

At the same time, there are books by famous authors that go nowhere. Whether they flop because the author tried something new that didn't work, or because she lost her writing ability, or because she's only writing the same story over and over doesn't matter. That kind of fame doesn't automatically sell books. (At the same time, there are bad books by famous authors that do well. Why? See my post on why and how bad books get into print.)

Books by and about famous people can flop. Examples: Spiro Agnew's suspense novel, and lots of other rock and country music autobiographies that didn't become million-sellers.

All of which leads to Point 2 of 2: Fame alone doesn't make a saleable book; the aforementioned enthusiasm and good writing are usually necessary. (Point 2.1: Bad books get into print and sometimes do well for reasons that have nothing to do with fame or quality. There's an exception to everything, even gravity.)
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Deciphering Poor-Quality Interview Recordings

As I noted in an earlier post, playing back a tape or digital audio recording can help you make out poor-quality recordings, and get past ambient noise that may creep into the recording.

Another help is to use an earplug, like those musicians wear on stage to protect their hearing. I use a brand called "Hearos." These soft silicone rubber plugs allow you hear but reduce volume and seem to filter out a lot of the high-end noise (which is what sounds like a fan or air conditioner or music or airplanes or passing cars make).

I put the plug in my ear and use a headset. Between this and slowing down the recording (and getting words from context or memory) I can work out almost anything that's said.

In a worst-case scenario, you might be able to use a program that allows you to see visualizations of sound (like EasyAudio Editor) to do comparisons and pick out the odd garbled word.

If you are still using a tape recorder, consider switching to a digital recorder like Sony's ICD-P320 (less than fifty bucks, and it can record over 30 hours). Feed the output from that directly into your computer and you can hop from place to place in the recording, while speeding up or slowing down the playback as necessary.

What about voice-recognition software, you ask? That's a question for a later post...
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter Remains a Boost for Reading

For those of us who are pro-reading, it's encouraging to see all the hullabaloo surrounding the release of the final Harry Potter novel. One can easily imagine children and teenagers wondering what all the noise is about and picking up one or more of the Potter books. And then becoming lifelong readers.

For an interesting twist on the continuing Harry Potter saga, see this story in Sara Pearce's Litchick blog.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Writers: Speed Up Interview Transcription

One of the real chores of interviewing is transcribing the quotes. Type ... listen ... back up ... replay ... back up ... type ... back up ...

You can speed up the transcription process--and eliminate most of the backing up--if you just reduce the playback speed by half or more. With the talk going by slower than you type, you will have few problems keeping pace. If the interview was recent, your memory will probably cue up a few words now and then, and you'll find yourself typing ahead.

(Plus, you have an opportunity to hear what you sound like as a word-slurring drunk.)

Finally, as you may already know, slowing down a poor-quality recording (or one with a lot of background noise) can make it easier to decipher questionable sections of the recording.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dealing with Writing Interruptions

Many people do not regard writing as "work." This is especially true if you're writing on the side while holding down a full-time job. People see (or imagine) you sitting in a comfortable chair, writing or pecking at a keyboard, and they know that's not work. It can't be: no one is yelling at you, there's no heavy lifting, you're not running around with a look of fear on your face, and you're certainly not building anything anyone can see.

Most of these folks figure you're just goofing off. (Or, as my late, famously alcoholic father, who made a lot of money doing something else entirely, used to put it, "Sitting on your ass all day.")

It gets worse when you are writing full-time. People who see you home all day may assume you aren't working (or you're on the Midnight shift, or selling drugs). Combine being home all day with sitting on your ass, and you're a perfect target for people who figure they can get you to help them garden, move, run errands, or give them a ride somewhere, since you're not really doing anything.

I learned the hard way that you have to say “No” to most such requests. Some people try to get you to agree by whining, begging, threatening—whatever they can think of. But I noticed that every time I took time away from my work for someone, it just encouraged them to impose on me again. And again.

Not long after I started writing for a living, I was forced to adopt a policy of always being on deadline—even if it was invented on the spot.

“I’m really sorry," I would say, "but I have to finish what I’m doing before five o’clock, so I can FedEx it to my editor.” I never discouraged a petitioner from their errands or tasks; I simply excluded myself.

Sometimes, I suggested someone else who might help them, or a different way they could do what they need to do on their own. After a couple of months, people stopped calling for help. A few took it personally, figuring that I didn't drop whatever I was doing to drive them into the city (where the one-way streets confused them) because I didn't care about them. Others thought I was really smart when I came up with a way for them to move that piano without my help.

A very few finally got their heads around the idea that someone could be at home yet still working.

And I got to write.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Obsession for Writers

I've often said that you have to be at least a little bit obsessive-compulsive to be a successful writer. How else can you finish a novel (or non-fiction book, article, whatever)? You have to be able to become temporarily obsessed with every aspect of the work you're creating. This is particularly true when you are writing a book; the only way to sustain interest, to hold the gestalt in your mind, to push through obstacles is to be obsessed with the project--with the words, the sentences and paragraphs, the chapters--everything.

I've been obsessed with the subject of my next book--blogging--for weeks now. And in the middle of that obsession, as I interview bloggers who have millions of readers, I'm hearing the same advice over and over: you have to be obsessed with your subject to be successful. Which is what I've been telling writers and would-be writers for twenty years.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Help Choose My Next Book's Cover!

Everyone knows how Chris Anderson's The Long Tail was written primarily online as a collaborative effort. So were Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, and a few other books.

My next book happens to be about bloggers, and though there is some discussion of blogs turning into books in it, I'm not writing it online.

However, you can have a say in selecting the cover the next book, Blogging Heroes, to be published by Wiley this fall. Having discovered opinions are spilt almost evenly over the two possible covers for the book, publisher Joe Wikert is seeking reader input.

Check out Joe's blog at, where you can have a closer look at the cover candidates and vote for your favorite!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Q&A Interview Tips, Part Two

(Continued from Part One)

Actually, it's best to just have a conversation, and work in your questions. If you get formal and start firing off questions, one after the other, you're likely to get a series of short responses that make for uninteresting reading.

Note that an interview conversation should be pretty much one-sided. Which means that you should stay out of it as much as possible. After the subject responds to your question about buying his first guitar, don't feel obligated to tell him about buying your first guitar. It'll clutter up your recording and probably be embarrassing if anyone else has to listen to the tape.

You won't use all the questions you've prepared. Some will turn out to be irrelevant or stupid in the light of things the interview subject tells you. And you'll come up with new questions inspired by the conversation with your subject.

When you've completed the interview, feel free to edit for clarity of meaning and to make the subject look like she has more than a nodding acquaintance with the English language. Nobody speaks perfectly, but a literal, direct transcrption is likely to read something like this:

Do you ever feel famous?
I, like, don't have a real gallery and I, like ... well, like I don't do shows, and so it's really sometimes hard to, you know, really wrap my head around the fact that, like, this is something that is important to, like, thousands of people, you know. It's, like ... well--you know, and it's, you know, like really difficult to understand why so many people are interested in what I do because it's like... but it's not like millions of people are really, like—not like millions of people are coming to see what I do. It just seems—it’s like, mind-boggling. It’s like, it’s not even like something l can totally comprehend at any level.

When what you want is more like this:
What is it like to be so highly regarded in your field?
I do so few shows that I don't get much public reaction. So the idea that what I do is important is not something I can comprehend.

Any questions?

Q&A Interview Tips, Part One

You've probably read Q&A intervews where a celeb, politician, business leader--whomever--is asked a series of questions, and answers those questions. It sounds like a plum job for a writer, or a non-writer; all you have to do is chat with the subject, transcribe the answers, and turn in the manuscript. You could do that, nothing to it!

But it's not quite that simple. Before you do anything else, you have to figure out the interview slant, and whether the questions will be issue- or event-driven, or subject-driven. (Examples: "So, what made you hate spinach so much?" or "Why did you destroy 30 acres of spinach with a flamethrower?" or "What attracted to becoming a green-vegetable expert?") Which of course means you need to research your subject, maybe find some earlier interviews with her.

And yes, you really need to do the research, no matter how big a fan you are of your subject, and no matter how much you think you know about him. There's always something new you can dig up. (One of the joys of doing such research is finding some fact that no other interviewer has discussed with the subject. Sometimes the subject likes it, too. Answering the same questions from interviewer after interviewer gets old.)

Armed with your research and a list of questions based on that research, you sit down with the subject, in-person or by telephone. After you're set up recording equipment, of course; you weren't planning on just scribbling shorthand, were you? You'll need a recording for all sorts of things--the nuances of meaning conveyed by voice inflection, the demands of your editor to prove that your subject really said that, and the claim by the subject that she said no such thing.

Okay, so you sit down and ask questions. Or do you?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Would You Buy Your Own Writing?

Would you pay money for your own work?

Are you honest enough with yourself to answer that question?

I like to think that I would buy most of what I've written, if it were by someone else. But not everything--not books on subjects I didn't select. But yeah, everything else I believe is good enough that if I found it with someone else's name on it I'd be interested in reading it. (And I'm darned glad I wrote some of my older telecomputing books. Not only did they make a lot of money, but I also find myself using them as references today, two decades later!)
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

The Best Way to Get Readers for Your Blog

As noted earlier, I'm at work on a project that involves bloggers. But not just any bloggers; these are the most successful bloggers on the Web. Bloggers who regularly place in Technorati's 100 most-favorited and most linked-to blogs.

The ongoing series of conversations I've had with these bloggers reveals some interesting themes, one of which is that search-engine optimization (SEO) is not the way to get large numbers of readers into your blog. Naturally, those who write books about SEO say otherwise, but here we have people who are getting tens of thousands of readers per day talking about SEO as "second-order" and "not an effective way to get readers."

If SEO isn't the best way to get readers, then what is? I'll leave that for the culmination of the project. It will be in a book tihs fall ...
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Product Placement in Books: Authors Selling Out?

I've just finished reading the Mindstar Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. Set mostly in and around Peterborough, England (and in orbit), the novels are Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder, and The Namo Flower. They are set in a post-global warming era in the not-too-distant future, and are excellent reads. The books are liberally seeded with fascinating ideas involving nanotechnology, society and politics, human-computer interfaces, biotechnology, and more. Though they're more than a decade old, they could just as well have been written this year.

So: the books have grand ideas, interesting characters, engaging setting, and fascinating events--but one thing really stood out in a somewhat jarring manner: the overuse of brand names. The names are mostly from the mid-1990s, when the books were written, which accounts for part of the jarring. There are some brand names that no longer exist, or which are unlikely to exist--like Rockwell hand weapons, Westland parawings, Bedford trucks, and etc. This is probably the result of exposure to a school of novel-writing that posits that the writer should use brand-names (in any fiction, not just SF) for verisimilitude. That's fine, but a little goes a long way.

All of which is not to criticize Hamilton so much as to a) recommend his work and b) introduce the subject of product placement in books.

Does it happen? Do writers accept money to have a character drink Coca-Cola rather than Royal Crown Cola? To drive a Kia rather than a Toyota? I don't believe it happens much. It's been going on in films for years; one of the most blatant instances was the menage of corporate brands on the sides of trailers towed by trucks rolling out west in E.T. And there's always been buzz over what kind of car James Bond would be driving in the next film. (Nothing beats the Aston-Martin DB-5, for my money.) And it has a long tradition in television (closing credits of My Three Sons: "Cars provided by the Chrysler Corporation.") But I have yet to meet a novelist who was paid to equip her protagonist with a Acer laptop or have her buy a ticket on Southwest Airlines.

Writers do that sort of thing on their own. If they like Fords, their characters drive Fords. A writer who drinks Lipton tea will have his hero dipping a Lipton tea bag in a cup of hot water. But, again, out of the many scores of published writers I know (from first-time novelists to repeat bestsellers), none have picked up money for flogging a product.

Non-fiction writers do better at this, though they don't get cash (unless they're writing a book about a product for the manufacturer), I received a new computer in exchange for offering to acknowledge the fact that I used it to write a particular book, in the book. The manufacturer went out of business before the book was published.) I've noted other writers crediting software and computer hardware in their computer books. But even that is rare. Otherwise, I might have scooped up some cash for talking about certain institutions and products in CROSLEY and eBay.

I think the reason that this happens so infrequently is that there are so many books (tens of thousands every year) that marketers would have to pay tiny amouts to get in every possible book. And books are not seen as having the same clout as television or film or popular Web sites. And many writers are so independent that they wouldn't agree to taking money (actually, most of those people wouldn't take such payment--or wouldn't admit it--for fear that their writer friends would accuse them of being phoney and selling out. And many of their writer friends would do just that--probably out of jealousy.)

But I'd take a thousand bucks to mention the ____ brand of ____ in my next book. Or, in my next three books for $2,250. It can't hurt.

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has been paid to include a certain brand in a novel, or as an example in a non-fiction book. Or anyone who knows of such a deal. I recall reading about the possibility of this in one of the news magazines a couple years ago, but if it happened I've forgotten it.

I'll be posting on a related topic, freebies for reviewers, magazine writers, and book authors, in a day or two. In the right fields, you get all sorts of free goodies. As I understand some bloggers do--which points to another interesting topic: bloggers selling promotional posts.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back Up New Technology with Old (and Check the Plugs!)

So here I am, all set up with my digital audio recorder, telephone pickup, voice-recognition software, memory sticks, laptop, laser leveler, headset with air conditioning and 21 jewels, and all the other gear a modern writer could want.

I spend an hour doing an important telephone interview. It's taken two weeks and a dozen calls to connect with this guy. The interview goes just fine. I get all sorts of enlightening statements and excellent quotes. End of interview. Thank you!

It's not until I hang up that I notice that the phone pickup is plugged into the headphone jack rather than the mic jack. All I've recorded is my side of the interview.

Hopefully, I can catch up with the subject soon enough to make my deadline. And hopefully he'll be willing to spend another hour replicating our conversation. Meanwhile, I'm reminded that there are still a few things that machines can't do.

And, yeah, I really should have made notes! New rule: whenever possible, back up new tech with old tech.

Details, details--the devil's in the details!
Addendum: I've since redone the interview. And I ended up with information that didn't come out first time around.