Showing posts from 2010

!!!surprise x-mas post!!! Everything INTERN Needs to Know About Manuscript Repair She Learned From Fixing Her Spaceship

Greetings, erstwhile readers! Over the course of the past six months, INTERN has found her thoughts straying to you time and again, wondering how you're doing and how your dear manuscripts are getting along. Now, in this warm and fuzzy season of well-wishery, INTERN is breaking her vow of bloggerly silence to indulge herself in a brief hello.

As some of you may know, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been living in a spaceship they bought for $750. For most of the past month, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been completely swallowed up in engine repair as they desperately strove to make it to Techie Boyfriend's family homestead in California in time for Christmas. Over the course of those alternatingly tense and joyful hours spent under the hood of the spaceship, or lying underneath the spaceship while Techie Boyfriend dropped various tools on INTERN's face, INTERN realized that engine repair is basically the same as manuscript repair, except greasier and with a greater…

in which INTERN gets real/also a love letter


It's been fifteen months since a young and wide-eyed INTERN started this blog. Everything was so exciting! There were publishing secrets to uncover and manuscript snafus to ponder and Nemesis Interns to thwart.

Then, INTERN spent some time nailing down some thoughts on revision and book-buying habits.

After a few months of that, INTERN missed publishing so much she did a second internship and learned all about how Distinguished and oh-so-Selective publishers (and their authors) can be sort of crazy.

Shortly after, INTERN fled the venerable confines of that internship in order to stumble awkwardly through her own book's release and promotion while trying and, INTERN admits, probably failing to not let her anonymity become annoying.

And now, dear readers, dearest dears, most beautiful and friendly and clever ones, INTERN has said just about everything she feels like saying about publishing and writing. INTERN has emptied the junk drawer of her brain on this matter and all th…

5 thoughts on book promotion

After being detained in Dame Murderpool's bone-chilling basement cell for the better part of two weeks, INTERN escaped and has returned to North America, leaving Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor in Elmira's capable hands. (it's a long story. INTERN will save it for a rainy day).

Anyway, INTERN's book (still a secret) has been out for almost three months now, and while shivering in Dame Murderpool's cell, INTERN had the time to collect her thoughts on some things she's learned in that time.

-It helps to be friendly.

As opposed to being demanding, arrogant, vain, mean, prima donna-ish, or, in the words of INTERN's editorial assistant friend, "a f&^#ing psychopath." INTERN has been told this holds true outside of publishing too, but so far this has been unconfirmed.

-It helps to have people.

Mention you've just had a book published, and suddenly everybody you've ever met becomes your greatest spokesperson without you even needing to ask. INTERN&#…

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: part 3

The new intern has just arrived at Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Castle, where INTERN is holed up trying to save her great-uncle's ailing publishing house.

The new intern was a striking young lad of only sixteen. He strode in wearing a newsboy cap and smoking a long-stemmed clay pipe. He proffered his hand and INTERN shook it, impressed by the youth's confidant air.

"Manley Blacksmith, youngest son of Peter Blacksmith, at your service. Are there any query letters needs reading, then?"

Young Manley didn't waste any time. INTERN nodded approvingly.

"Welcome, Manley. As a matter of fact there's a whole pile of submissions that need sorting. You can work on that until The Gales of Thistledown Moor turns up, at which point the full range of your talents will be required."

INTERN was surprised to find herself speaking in such a formal manner. Perhaps the castle was getting to her.

She turned to Buckley, who was squinting at young Manley as if trying to f…

Mystery and Deception and—no, breaking news!

When we left off last time, a mysterious rhyming intern had just arrived from the village.

However, INTERN cannot update you on the events at Shamsbury-pon-Spoor Castle because her head is still reeling from news of the vicious memoir battle that is rocking the UK.

Says the London Evening Standard:

New Labour may be well and truly dead but the memoirs fight is raging in a summer that will pit the former Labour leader against his oldest and closest ally.

Lord Mandelson has effectively scooped his former boss, Tony Blair, by giving an exclusive interview to tomorrow's Times after selling his memoirs to the pugnacious literary queen Victoria Barnsley at HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, at Random House, Tony Blair's recollections of his time at the top, The Journey, will be published in September by Gail Rebuck, the newly honoured Dame, who has social connections across politics and publishing and among London's cultural elites.

The £4.6 million deal has been long publicised but any deta…

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: Part 2

When last we left off, INTERN had just stumbled into her late great-uncle's publishing office, located behind a trick bookshelf in a crumbling Cornwall castle. Will INTERN succeed at fulfilling her great-uncle's dying wish, and claim her rightful place as Baroness Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor?

INTERN heard the bookshelf grind into place behind her. Before her lay the wood-pannelled offices of Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Editions. A lithe old man dressed entirely in tweed with a beard that reached down to his knees jumped up from his place behind an antique rolltop desk and came hurrying towards her.

"Oh Miss INTERN, I am so frightfully glad you've arrived. You're the spitting image of your great-uncle the Baron, God slather his soul with butter. I'm Buckley, the editorial assistant. At your service."

With those words, the old man took an elaborate bow. INTERN looked him over skeptically. Editorial assistant? The poor chap must be two hundred years old! INTE…

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: Part 1

Three days ago, INTERN arrived in England under Mysterious Circumstances—but even INTERN could not fathom just how mysterious they would turn out to be.

She was met at Heathrow by an anemic-looking footman dressed in purple velvet, who conducted her by stagecoach all the way to Cornwall, the stallions' hooves trampling the heather flat. At midnight, they arrived at a huge but crumbling castle, where the footman left INTERN without a word of explanation and took off at a gallop.

Inside the castle, INTERN climbed a stone staircase, her path lit only by the white LED on her keychain. At the top of the stairs was a wooden door. She opened the door to reveal a dimly lit office. An elderly man with slicked-back hair and a frilly lace collar looked up from his desk, narrowed his eyes, and said in a grating voice "So you've made it after all, INTERN—or should I say, Baroness Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor."

At that moment a bat squeaked, and INTERN noticed the pile of legal docume…

hither and yon!

Just a quick note to say that INTERN has been summoned to England very abruptly and will attending to Important Matters in the Mother Country until mid-July. Specifically, INTERN is going to Penzance (yes, as in the Pirates of Penzance...tra-la-la!)

INTERN will try to update a few times from abroad, perhaps to report on The State of Publishing in Great Britain or maybe just to complain about her books getting rained on while waiting for one of those double decker buses.

Long story short, INTERN requires three things from you, knowledgeable readers:

1. Tell INTERN which book she absolutely must read on the plane. INTERN only has about forty-six hours to figure this out, and it is a matter of CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE!

2. Alert INTERN to any amazing bookstores she absolutely must visit in Penzance and/or Saint Ives.

3. Alert INTERN to any mysterious old hermit writers living in Penzance and/or Saint Ives who might be interested in having a cup of tea with INTERN. Pirate writers especially…

discoveries whilst packing

As some of you may know, the lease on Casa de INTERN+Techie Boyfriend/Hippie Roommate/Vampire Roommate is up at the end of this month (there is, in fact, already a craigslist post out there trying to snare the next renter with extravagant promises of vibrant white walls and sometimes-functional power outlets). Hippie Roommate has already decamped for her biotech manfriend's more upscale digs, leaving behind packets of millet flour and organic apple cider vinegar which INTERN is scrambling to use up in the next two weeks. Vampire Roommate's worldly possessions consist of a bare mattress and a giant bong in whose glassy chamber he could almost certainly take up residency if it weren't so wet. INTERN has been vigorously putting things into a Giveaway Pile, and Techie Boyfriend has been removing things from the Giveaway Pile with about 3.7 times as much vigor.

This morning, INTERN was putting together a box of the free books she's collected over the course of her variou…

acquaintances don't let acquaintances be awkward about free books

A few days ago, INTERN got an e-mail from a reader who had a question about the etiquette of asking recently-published acquaintances for a free copy of their book. This reader has a family friend whose first book has just come out in (oh, snap!) hardcover. "Is it cool," inquired the reader, "to just ask her for a copy? Or would that be awkward?"

Good question. Really good question. Question to which there are many possible answers.

Possible answer #1:

If you were a recently-published author, which of the following would you rather hear from a family friend:

a) "I bought your book at the local independent bookstore and simply devoured it, dah-ling!"


b) "Soooooo, where can I get a copy of your book?" (eyes stack of review copies on author-acquaintance's desk meaningfully**).

Not only does answer (a) knock a few dollars off the advance your family friend is trying to earn out, but it reassures her that you are actually interested in the book a…

hardback mountain

A few years ago, INTERN read an essay (a rather irate essay, if INTERN recalls correctly) by an author who argued that nobody who doesn't buy new, hardback literary fiction at its full price should be allowed to write literary fiction (or at least, try to get it published). This author set the minimum new hardback purchase quota at something like twelve books per annum. Her reasoning was that authors and publishers of literary fiction rely on hardcover sales to make the whole kerfuffle worth kerfuffling, and that one is simply hypocritical (and a big meanie!) if one wants to see one's name in big letters on a hardcover book but, er, declines to buy them.

INTERN still thinks about this essay from time to time, especially when she's in a bookstore ogling and then regretfully putting down someone's luscious new hardcover. Confession: INTERN has not bought a new, fullprice hardcover since...hmmm....definitely not in the past few years....or the few years before that....…

from the annals of YA clichees

INTERN has been avoiding her computer as if it were a dreadful viper and instead been taking lots of 20-mile walks in the hills, where she is ironically much more likely to encounter an actual viper. This weekend, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend went to visit Techie Boyfriend's family, and INTERN got to hang out with his 16 year old sister, who is an eleventh grader at a bonafide American Highschool.

Now, you need to understand that for INTERN, American highschools are somewhat mythical places she's only ever apprehended through movies like Clueless and the dozens upon dozens of YA manuscripts she's read that take place in their locker-bejewelled halls. INTERN herself went to a Canadian highschool, which is a whole different animal. INTERN's highschool did not, for example, have a cheerleading team, or a stadium, or even the omnipresent Lockers that nerds at American Highschools are routinely stuffed into. INTERN's highschool did not have a Prom (the significance o…

of unicorn hunting and hamster wheels

Lately, INTERN has been overwhelmed by the sense that she should stop jabbering so much and free up her head to learn something—empty the proverbial cup so it can be filled with better and more sparkling waters. INTERN has spent the past week wandering around town having very earnest internal debates over how best to do this. Questions arise like "is it possible to spend so much time on one's laptop and still soak one's soul in Deep Truths, or should INTERN throw everything 21st century-related on the stinkbarge and toil at her typewriter?" and admonitions also, like "INTERN, you have not been doing Serious Writing! You have been fooling around with Unserious Things and writing Unserious Books and your brain is not getting any smarter!"

Then last night INTERN and Techie Boyfriend watched a movie about a French painter who lived a life of back-breaking drudgery and died friendless and abandoned in a mental asylum, but made beautiful, wild, enchanting paint…

How Books Work, part 2: Day 'o' YA

A little while back, INTERN posted about the usefulness of always keeping a question in the reader's mind. This weekend, INTERN grabbed a book off the "New YA" shelf at the library that pulls this off extremely well. Bad Apple by Laura Ruby is about a girl who *might* have had an affair with her highschool art teacher. The entire book is based around this one giant question, but several other, equally salient questions lurk under this question's umbrella. The result is a book that's coldly and mercilessly engineered to make readers' poor helpless hands reach out and turn the pages—because desire to know the answers to juicy questions is, like, scientifically proven to create a state of temporary insanity.

Anyhoo, let's have a look at how Ruby does it.

The book starts off with a narrative hook that establishes two things: people are saying that Girl's Art Teacher is a "predator" and Girl is a "liar."

Reader (aka INTERN's) slightl…

42! dolphins! vogons!

In case any of you fine hoopy froods aren't aware, today (May 25th) is Towel Day, in honour of Douglas Adams. There are Towel Day events happening all over the world—really—find one near you at the Towel Day website.

To make things even more peculiar, the Guardian reports that Terry Pratchett fans wear lilac towels on May 25th in joint support of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett's novel Night Watch, and Alzheimer's research. INTERN, for her part, is rocking an "under the sea" themed towel to demonstrate her support of Douglas Adams, Jacques Cousteau, the Gulf oil spill, the colour blue, and endangered starfish.

why lovers with high blood pressure should not be beta readers...

INTERN has been quietly working away on a novel for the past year, which she is trying very hard to complete before summer. INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are also in the process of paring down their stuff so they become nomads (i.e. shed pesky strictures like "rent" and "utilities" so they can continue to not have normal jobs and also possibly find ultimate reality). These two activities collided yesterday in a way that really gave INTERN some insight into her beloved Techie Boyfriend's mindset.

In the morning, INTERN was throwing giveaway clothes into a bag when Techie Boyfriend showed up and immediately became alarmed (OK, totally freaked out) by her heartless methods:

Techie Boyfriend: Wait, where's that wool sweater? The white one?
INTERN: You mean the nasty yellow one that used to be white with the half-unravelled sleeves? Gone to the Free Pile!
Techie Boyfriend: YOU PUT IT IN THE FREE PILE??? But-but-that's the sweater you wore all the time when …

How Books Work, part 1

As a frequent manuscript critiquer, INTERN is used to reading manuscripts that don't quite work (yet!). This has given her the urge to take apart published novels that do work and look at all the springs and cogs and little metal bits that make them tick.

Some of the most common problems INTERN sees in novel manuscripts are not enough suspense, not enough conflict, dragging pace, too much focus on trivial scenes and not enough on important scenes, and main characters whose problems are too easy and who never get put to a satisfying test (which sounds like a laundry list from any writing-advice book, but it's true, those are the exact problems most novel drafts have!)

So what does a novel with salient suspense, carnivorous conflict, pertinacious problems, etc, etc, look like?

For this first experiment, INTERN is going to take apart a novel that was a quick read and had a very straightforward plot: Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. What follows is INTERN's extremely rough …

in which shock jocks are sort of jerks

INTERN is a very bleary-eyed INTERN this morning because she had to get up for a radio interview at 5:30 AM. Not just any sleepy, genteel radio interview. We're talking "Bruiser and Big Dawg in the Morning" straight out Large Suburban Hellhole, New Jersey.

It was not the worst ten minutes of INTERN's life, but it was maybe fifth or sixth runner up.

Bruiser and Big Dawg took the concept of "bro" to a whole new level. They were rude, obnoxious, sexist, and deliberately insulting. And while INTERN tried her hardest to sass them right back, her pathologically nice Canadian upbringing reared its sunny head and she came off as a total wuss. Observe:

Bruiser: So your book's about, let's see here, senior citizens. OK, so if I'm having sex with a senior lady and she starts having a heart attack, can I [redacted—grotesque].

INTERN's internal monologue: Tell him he's an asshole! Tell him to go fuck himself!

INTERN: Well, sir, for one thing I…

of she-publishing and prisons...

INTERN happened upon the recent Huffpo/Salon/various blog kersnuffle over Why Men Don't Read (or Whether It's Actually True That Men Don't Read, or Whether Publishing Is A Female-Dominated Industry Running Roughshod Over The Literary Needs Of Men, or whatever) rather belatedly.

For those who missed the debate, here's a brief summary:

Pinter: "Men don't read because all the books being published right now are she-books picked by she-editors promoted with she-marketing campaigns that don't make men want to buy them!"

Salon: "This is possibly true! Also, maybe there are more women in publishing than men because more women are willing to put up with the crappy pay!"

Various Blogs (in chorus): "But then why are there more male authors on the NYT best-seller list than female authors?/I'm a man and I read!/But NPR said only 1 in 4 books is bought by a man!/What is this, the 1950's? Do we really need to make such a big distinction betw…

the lewd world of Big 6 anagrams...

INTERN was reading Publishers Weekly this morning and feeling mystical, and she started making anagrams of Big 6 publishers' names (full disclosure: the Internet Anagram Server stepped in to help). Her findings surprised even INTERN.

The Anagrams

Simon & Schuster came off rather fastidious—maybe a little too fastidious, as the third anagram indicates:

Cushiest Norms
Mensch Suitors
Scrotums Shine

Random House was a little more earthy, even barnyard-y.

Around Homes
Moaned Hours
Unheard Moos
Humane Odors

HarperCollins was simply rude:

Phallic Snorer

Penguin Group was muttering in a paranoid manner:

Pup, Ignore Gun!

Macmillan had only one thing to say about the best place to sell books:

Manic Mall

Hachette Book Group revealed its coping strategy for the recession:

Toke A Potherb, Cough

Happy Monday everyone!

Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Bookstore Clerks

Ahoy readers! This morning, INTERN was so groggy she reached into the fridge and accidentally poured Hippie Roommate's chicken broth into her coffee instead of soymilk (the Tetra Paks are the same size...) So she is clearly not at blogging level today and is instead turning things over to Fresh and Delightful Guest Poster Megan Burke.

Working is a bookstore is dying a long, slow, painful death. That's how all us weekend girls described it, anyway. At a sleepy chain bookstore in a shopping centre, we spent most of our time reading the books and dancing up and down the aisles to music.

We had our regular customers: the Italian woman with a surname so long and complicated no one could pronounce or spell it - she read romance. And a lot of it – I’m talking over $60 a week. Then there was the old man who read war history, who no one wanted to serve because he talked, and talked, and talked, and talked—talked so much, in fact, that you never got any work done. There were the two tee…

Amazon—or Shamazon? inside customer reviews

A few days ago, INTERN was pleased to note that customer reviews of her just-released book were starting to appear on Amazon. And not just any customer reviews—reviews from bonafide strangers. Strangers in places like Florida. Strangers who had clearly read INTERN's book (or done a good job of flipping through it) and whose reviews were surprisingly thorough.

Suspiciously thorough.

Reading through them a second time, it struck INTERN as odd that all these disinterested Floridians were posting such voluble reviews so soon after the book had come out.

Then INTERN noticed something.

Two of the reviews came from Amazon Top Reviewers. Two other reviewers were members of something called the Amazon Vine Program. Only one of the customer reviewers was naked of such tags—and, interestingly enough, that review was the shortest and seemed the most genuine.

After some quick research, INTERN came across this article in Slate (titled "The Murky Demimonde of Amazon's Top Reviewers&qu…

do libraries help or hurt book sales?

Not too long ago, INTERN was delighted to receive a good review in a magazine read by many librarians. "Ah!" burbled a voluble INTERN to Techie Boyfriend. "Perhaps this means 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will one day appear in our Locale Librarye. How charming!" A cloud passed over Techie Boyfriend's normally sunny visage. "Let's hope not," he muttered gravely, "or people won't have to buy it anymore."

"Techie Boyfriend," quoth INTERN, "you are but a simple, technically-minded man. What laughable frippery-froppery to suggest that putting a book in Libraries could ever harm its sales."

But the seed of doubt had been planted in INTERN's trusting mind, and she has been fretting over this point all weekend. INTERN is a lover of Libraries, and has been all her life—but now that it's down to a cold, hard handful of change in royalties for every copy sold, should INTERN fear and suspec…

how not to write a non-fiction book proposal

It's been a while since INTERN's written a post about matters non-fictive. But after coming across a few less-than-accurate guides to book proposal writing on the internet, she thought she should set the record straight. Here's the last word on the subject:


This is the part where you lift copy directly from the Vitamix salesman's spiel at Costco, but substitute the title of your book for "Vitamix". Don't ever tell what your book is about in this section—that comes later. Your goal here is to get the agent pumped.

Comp Titles

This is the part of the proposal where you get to diss other books on the same subject as your book (and books not on your subject that you just felt like hatin' on). You want to prove to the agent that every other book in circulation is a cockroach-infested pile of beaver dung, hence the need for your book to fill the gap. Personal attacks on other authors also go in this section. Don't be shy!


OK, here…

do unpublished manuscripts need book trailers?

Over the past month or so, INTERN has been shocked by the amount of work she's found herself doing to prepare for her book's** release. Between printing rather superfluous flyers, making a book trailer, and setting up a ridiculous website, the time she spent writing the actual book has become a faint, innocent, candy-coated memory.

But it all pales in comparison to the amount of work INTERN has seen tons of writers do to promote their book—before they even have a book deal.

Over the past year, INTERN has seen it all: writers who make a blog from the point of view of their fictional protagonist, book trailers for books that are actually half-finished manuscripts, sample cover art printed on glossy paper at great expense and submitted with the query or book proposal, custom-made stationary featuring a quote from the book, links to twitter and facebook accounts for a manuscript or character—pretty much everything short of feature-length films of the unpublished manuscript.

As som…

Guest Post: An Errant Interview

Good day, writerly colleagues! Today's guest post takes the form of an interview written by Jill Cayrol, with answers from INTERN (or INTERN's spunky ghost-writer) scattered hither and thither. INTERN herself is hard at work on her next book, "The Care And Grooming of Treasure Trolls 1988-1990," forthcoming in Mocktober 2010.

INTERN is away from her blog at the moment, most likely sitting comfortably on the church pew she rescued from the side of the road last October.  She’s probably flipping through her beloved dictionary in search of the perfect word to describe the organic cloudberry and granadilla snack square that Hippie Roommate made from scratch (after clearing all remnants of Vampire Roommate’s evil-spirit-ridding paraphernalia from every corner of the kitchen).   UNKNOWN HOPEFUL has spotted this as her one and only chance at blog-writing stardom and hopes that INTERN’s legions of fans can handle the intrusion.

In order to keep INTERN’s legions of fans parti…

the grapes of april

Hello, fabulous people!

INTERN has returned from her sylvan hideaway (yes, it was a camping trip—Techie Boyfriend always seems to sense when INTERN needs to be kept away from things like electrical sockets at all costs, and INTERN's mental health, volatile at the best of the times, is feeling much more robust after a week spent searching for morels. ((an activity only slightly complicated by the fact that neither Techie Boyfriend nor INTERN have the faintest idea when morels are supposed to fruit, nor where to find them.))

This month has been a hailstorm of book-related activity, little of which has actually made it onto this blog because INTERN has, by and large, been too hyperactive and/or consumptive to post. Anyway, here's what's been going on:

-A few weeks ago, INTERN's forthcoming book received its first review. (title of said book is 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest. There, INTERN has finally divulged her secret! Go forth and purchase it fr…