Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Electronic Rights Means More Money for Authors

It sure do, honey. Check out NYT story on how upset Simon& Schuster is that one of their biggest authors (Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) & sequelae) has sold his electronic book rights to a company that'll give him 50 percent when people buy electronic versions of his books. You think Amazon.com taking 50 percent is outrageous? Well, Simon & Schuster would have taken 75 percent.

"Ever since electronic books emerged as a major growth market, New York’s largest publishing houses have worried that big-name authors might sign deals directly with e-book retailers or other new ventures, bypassing traditional publishers entirely." (Poor publishers; now they suffer they way WE did when THEY bypassed fairness to writers!)

I specifically claimed all electronic rights to the text of Meet Me just for that reason; and when you sign book contracts -- be a highly effective person and do the same!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Parting with Students

Dear Class:

You were beginners. A seasoned writer would sputter, "That's impossible!" if assigned in 16 weeks to produce and craft a package of 3 to 5 poems, a personal essay, and a short story. But you did it. Congratulations. I am proud of you.

Each so different, age 17 to 55, you got along beautifully because you were generous and vulnerable and imperfect -- and in order to get you that way I had to be that way first, and it was a BEAR, because those are traits I don't like to display; I never planned to become a teacher. . . I think I was sent into it so I would learn humility. Thanks for teaching me.

You wrote some freaking awesome things and you know it.

I hope there's at least one helpful thing about writing that you discovered in here that you will remember, whatever that might be.

Here's my card, and let me know how you fare and how your writing goes, and if you need a reference. I've been teaching this class for 12 years and apparently am not going anywhere, so if you need to look me up you know where I am.

Go get 'em,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If You Sign Your Book

If you sign your name in your book, you’ve “autographed” it. Putting a personalized note in your book, and then signing your name (example: “To Florence, best wishes, Catherine”) is called “inscribing” it.

In Meet Me (the book is coming soon) I mention that poet Jane O. Wayne said she’ll autograph but won’t inscribe her books – having once found for sale a used copy she’d inscribed to a very close friend. Picture sending a heartfelt Valentine e-mail to your love. Imagine that he or she forwards it as a Valentine to somebody else.

If you send books out into the world, these things happen. It is part of authorhood. It’s recycling. It’s all good.

I too sent an old dear friend a book inscribed to her. Now she’s selling that copy online at secondhand. Because of the inscription she’s charging rather more than double the cover price. Like, which of us should feel embarrassed?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Never Say Never

In 2001 I published in The Missouri Review an essay I'd worked on hard and liked a lot. Titled "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," it was all about Elvis Presley's recording of the song by the same name. After it was published I never heard any response; not a single comment except for jokes after I mentioned I'd written about Elvis.

Later I learned that Stanley Elkin advised writers not to try describe music; it couldn't be adequately done. And I looked at what I'd written and published to no account, and thought it a noble failure.

Well, a friend found on the Missouri Review site a college instructor's comment: "As model essays I use several examples from TMR’s [The Missouri Review's online] archives. . . .“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” by Catherine Rankovic is a lesson in how to describe the nearly impossible—Elvis’ phrasing and singing voice."

And then a paragraph from that essay appears in the Elvis entry in Wikiquote. I didn't put it there but I did correct the misquotations when I found it...

Maybe The King might have liked that some college professor gal took him serious... Moral of the story is, as musician Miles Davis put it: "Don't fear mistakes. There are none."