Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Literary Prizes ~ Which Is More Important, the Author or the Book?

I’ve never attempted to win a writing prize. 

Is the author more important than the book?

Image Courtesy of ostillac callisto ~

Maybe being a citizen of the U.S.A. has taught me that most prizes have hidden strings that can tie up your intentions

Some folks claim prize money supports authors in a time of  faltering book earnings.

Does that mean the authors are slanting their writing in hopes of winning a prize?

And, what about all the evidence of politics amongst various prize judges?

In my very personal opinion, winning prizes can be as bad as the stifling effects of author branding.

Curious stuff

But, please don’t take my opinions as some attempt at moral judgement—I’m sure some authors actually do deserve ever accolade they receive, monetary or media.

Let’s look at the Nobel Prize won by non-fiction author Svetlana Alexievich.

She won about US$970,000.

Is such a sum enough to ease all the burdens she’s endured in her 67 years?

Perhaps it will alleviate some pressures during her remaining time on Earth

The publication Quartz has an apropos article I’ll share a few excerpts from—Turning Authors into Celebrities Is Bad for Reading:

“Prizes like the Nobel inspire much ado—in the weeks leading up to the announcement, people give their best guesses as to who will win, look back on past “snubbed” winners, and even place bets as if spectators at a Derby.”

“Our laurel-heaping impulse seems increasingly to contribute to a culture of turning authors into celebrities, where readers follow the author instead of the book.”

Then comes a quote from an author wrapped in mystery (she uses a pseudonym and communicates primarily through letters and email), Elena Ferrante:

“I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors…If [books] have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t…True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known; they are the very small miracles of the secret spirits of the home or the great miracles that leave us truly astonished.”

One last excerpt from the Quartz article:

“…our culture of celebrity is often too wrapped up in the way we read: How might the meaning of a work change if the author really didn’t grow up in a poor neighborhood, or if she was abused in childhood, or if she is really a man? Even the anonymous Ferrante has been made the centerpiece of her books’ success.

Finally, here’s Doris Lessing‘s reaction to winning the Nobel Prize:

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How To Fall In Love With Writing Again

Alexander M Zoltai:

Have you and your Muse had a falling-out?

There are ways to get the flames burning again…

And, do check out the Comments of today’s Re-blog for additional advice………

Originally posted on Courage 2 Create:

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Cynthia Morris ofOriginal Impulse.

The writer looked up, bleary-eyed. The word ‘fin’ was imprinted on his vision. The end. It was done. His second draft. Complete.

A giant sigh surged up and whooshed out of him. ‘Ding’ his computer chimed.

In his inbox, the world pressed. “Call me!” “Let’s do that thing we talked about.” “Did you get my submission?”

He snapped to, the fuzzy edges of his writing buzz sharpening into focus on his to-do list. He hit ‘reply’ and re-entered the world.

Falling “Out of Love” With Writing

Sometimes the creative process can feel more like a slog than a joy ride. But no matter how long you’ve been working in your medium, you can still find ways to play, explore and enjoy a sense of fun in your creative work.

How can you bring more fun into…

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#BookMarketing ~ Making Sense of #AuthorPromotion

I’ve written here before about Book Marketing… 

I’ve discussed my disdain for the term “marketing” and my grudging acceptance of “Book Promotion“.

I’ve explained that snagging a traditional book deal doesn’t guarantee a writer can forget about promoting their book (unless that “writer” happens to be wildly famous…).

I’ve discussed the buzz-term, Author Platform (and, its cousin “Personal Branding”).

In fact, there’s an excellent article, by journalist Ann Friedman, that traces the history of Personal Branding and leaves you wondering whether current advice for writers is, in any way, rational. The title is very revealing—Me Inc. ~ The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a “personal brand”.

Just one quote from the article:

“I’ve noticed a paradox: The more time I spend defining my personal brand, the more contrived it feels when I talk about myself.”

Even though the article casts a rather lurid light on branding, I recommend eager authors read it as part of their making sense of what to do to promote themselves.

One thing is certain.

If you publish a book and tell no one about it, no one will buy it—even if you want to give it away, no one will take it if you don’t tell them about it


Writers have a need to consider various promotional strategies and choose or create one that won’t drive them crazy


When I decided what to write about today, it actually wasn’t, at first, about what Ann Friedman had to say about Personal Branding.

It was about what Fauzia Burke, Founder & President of FSB Associates, has to say about Book Marketing.

She started her company in 1995 and there should be no surprise that she can say it was “one of the first firms to specialize in Internet publicity and marketing for publishers and authors”.

So, here’s me, not liking the term “Book Marketing”, in fact not liking most of what most anyone has to say about the topic; and, here’s the title of an article by the Founder of one of the first companies to specialize in the field—10 Things I Know for Sure About Book Marketing.

I’m going to list those ten things and urge you to go read the full article—also, I must ask you to be aware that some of her points sure don’t sound like a person who runs a marketing firm

1. You can’t just do social media.

2. Don’t try and do everything.

3. Don’t try to promote your book to everyone.

4. The tortoise can beat the hare.

5. The age of generalists is over.

6. Think long-term.

7. Talking to people is a great privilege.

8. Go for engagement.

9. Start now.

10. Give value to your customer.

If you happen to read Fauzia’s article (and/or Ann’s), I’d love it if you could share your thoughts and feelings in the Comments
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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Grammar-ease: Using ‘who’ versus ‘that’

Alexander M Zoltai:

Some things aren’t really “Rules”…

Today’s Re-blog explores a “Choice”…

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

ThatVsWhoSimilar to my last grammar post on ‘and’ versus ‘to’, I see mixed use with ‘who’ versus ‘that’ quite often.

Usage between these two words is more personal preference than a grammar rule, as ‘that’ has been used for years and using ‘who’ is a more modern choice.

For me, I choose to use ‘who’ when referring to a person or specific people and ‘that’ when referring to a group or class of people, animals, objects, or a combination of people and things.


  • Sue is a nurse who/that enjoys the late shift.
  • The cat is the type who/that shreds toilet paper.
  • The puppy who/that chewed my shoe is in big trouble.
  • The people who/that met last night had coffee this morning.
  • The cabin who/that my father built is still standing.
  • It is either Mary or her magic hat who/that is to blame.
  • Todd is the man who/that lives next…

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How Many Sales Does It Take to Make a Book a “Success”?

The answer to this post’s title depends on who you ask.

Author Earnings and Book Sales

Image courtesy of Thiago Felipe Festa ~

The author, the publisher, and the readers would have different opinions.

My past post—What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?—says, “An extremely small percentage of writers sells more than 500 copies of a book…”

So, is a successful book one that sells 600 copies, a thousand, hundreds of thousands?

Again, it depends on who you ask

An article about book sales, from National Public Radio in the U.S.A., has Washington Post critic Ron Charles saying:

“When I saw that Anne Enright — [who] I think of as giant in literary fiction, beloved around the world — could only sell 9,000 copies [of The Green Road] in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low.”

The Authors Guild in the U.S.A. recently did a member survey that showed a decided drop in book sales per author; however, their members are either traditionally published or have book-earnings of around $3,300 a year

The National Public Radio article goes on to quote Barry Eisler (who’s mentioned in a number of my posts):

“I mean, there are lots of writers … thousands of writers who are making a good living from self-publishing.”

The article continues:

“Eisler is a self-publishing advocate who says the Authors Guild doesn’t represent all writers. Its membership skews older and it is mostly interested in maintaining the status quo of traditional publishing. Self-publishing may not be for everyone, he says. There is no question writers have to be more entrepreneurial. But he says it also offers them a choice when it comes to money and control — and the end result isn’t really all that different from traditional publishing.”

So, self-publishing might help sell more but doesn’t guarantee anything

Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, says:

“We can’t tell people not to write for free. It’s not to their advantage to do it. But if they want to do it, they will do it.”

If you’re a writer and are still reading this post, would you consider responding to Roxana’s statement in the Comments?
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com


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