Here’s an interesting post from Daniel Decker on the tough world of book publishing (HT Trevin Wax). Specifically, he offers “10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing” before giving 7 tips for overcoming them. If you have any interest in the writing/publishing world, this one’s worth a quick read.
Here are the 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing that Decker offers:
- The number of books being published in the U.S. has exploded.
- Book industry sales are declining, despite the explosion of books published.
- Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.
- A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.
- It is getting harder and harder every year to sell books.
- Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
- Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers.
- No other industry has so many new product introductions.
- The digital revolution is expanding the number of products and sales channels but not increasing book sales.
- The book publishing world is in a never-ending state of turmoil.
Keep reading to see what he thinks about how prospective authors should respond to this challenging new environment.
At least once a week, I try to pass along any good writing tips or resources I’ve stumbled across on my various internet journeys. Today’s resource comes from an interview with Louis Markos, an editor at The Gospel Coalition website.
Answering the first question, Markos offers a number of authors that he thinks have a “beautiful and subtle prose” worth emulating. He’s particularly fond of Ray Bradbury and C. S. Lewis.
The latter part of the interview focuses on the differences between good and great sentences, as well as what it takes to craft a good argument.
Tired of typing all those citations for the paper that you’re writing? Wish there was an easier way? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, QuickCite is a new app available for iPhone or Android that can create citations in several common formats (APA, Chicago, MLA, or IEEE). You just take a picture of the book’s barcode and it quickly emails you a bibliography-ready citation formatted in your chosen style.
The reviewer does note that the app has some drawbacks:
E-mailed citations don’t indicate which style is being implemented, so users who switch between different citation styles will have to keep tabs on the differences when using the scanned citations. Another challenge is that bar codes only became standard on books in the 1970s, according to the U.S. ISBN Agency, which is run by R.R. Bowker, so books published earlier might not work with the program.
And, since it’s bar code based, it won’t work on journal articles or other sources.
I have to admit that to me it sounds like a pretty limited tool that might be more hassle than it’s worth. But, I suppose if you’re putting in some library time and going through lots of books, it may be worth a shot. And, at only 99 cents, it’s hard to complain too much.
Here are some good tips for keeping an editor (or picky professor) happy with your writing projects. (HT 22 Words)
Boston.com has an excellent article in defense of Strunk and White’s classic writing text, Elements of Style (read it on Scribd here). After surveying its influence and some key critiques, the author concludes:
Meanwhile, as far as everyday, non-literary writing goes, the book is tremendously useful, especially for writers who are just starting out. If you are still struggling to put your thoughts into words, then The Elements of Style is a godsend. Strunk and White take the same tack as E.L. Doctorow, who wrote that “writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Simple sentences get you where you want to go, one mile at a time. Haslett suggests, as an alternative, Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One; Fish, he explains, is a world-class literary critic, “a sentence connoisseur” who offers “a far richer introduction to the capacities of English language sentences.” But beginning writers often find simplicity more helpful than sinuosity.
Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger and former minister, explains why he thinks preparing sermons is like writing blog posts. Along the way, he explains his process for preparing posts/sermons and offers some thoughts for improving your own process.
The perennial problem of the seminary student: what does it mean to write a good theology paper and how do you go about doing it?
Although there really is no definitive answer to such questions, here’s an older article that John Frame wrote describing How to Write a Theology Paper. He explains the 11 steps that he goes through in writing the paper and offers some good thoughts for any seminary student looking for tips on how to write a good paper.
At one point, he explains the importance of offering your own argument and not just re-stating the opinions and ideas of other people:
Furthermore, every paper should contain something of the theologian himself. It is rarely sufficient simply to tell the reader what someone else says (an “expository paper,” as I call it). Nor, in seminary level papers, is it adequate to write down a series of “standard” arguments on an issue—arguments that have been used time and time again. I describe papers of that sort as “party lines.” Party lines are often useful; it is good to have at your fingertips the standard arguments for infant baptism, for example. I myself use this kind of argument frequently in talking with inquirers. But generally, party-line arguments do not belong in theological papers. Expositions, summaries, surveys, party lines—all of these are essentially regurgitations of ideas obtained from other sources. They involve little analytical or critical thinking. But such thinking is precisely what is needed, if the paper is to represent an advance in the church’s knowledge.
You’ll need to read his paper to see his whole process, but here are the 11 steps that he suggests.
- Choose a topic with care.
- Understand your sources.
- Write down what you find interesting.
- Ask questions about your sources.
- Formulate a critical perspective on your sources.
- Organize your notes according to topics of interest.
- Ask, then, What do I want to tell my audience on the basis of my research?
- Be self-critical.
- Decide on an audience.
- Decide on a format and style.
- Produce your formulation.
Here are all of the “Tips for the Th.M.” that I’ve posted so far. If anyone has suggestions for further posts, please let me know.
- Tips for the ThM – part 1 (journal articles)
- Tips for the ThM – part 2 (strong arguments)
- Tips for the ThM – part 3 (concise arguments)
- Tips for the ThM – part 4 (criticism)
- Tips for the ThM – part 5 (concise answers)
- Tips for the ThM – part 6 (I don’t know)
- Tips for the ThM – part 7 (summarizing research)
- Tips for the ThM – part 8 (writing proposals)
- Tips for the ThM – part 9 (the proposal process)
- Tips for the ThM – part 10 (picking a topic)
- Tips for the ThM – part 11 (finding a topic)
- Tips for the ThM – part 12 (writing a big thesis)
- Tips for the ThM – part 13 (writing the perfect resume)
- Tips for the ThM – part 14 (good quotes)
- Tips for the ThM – part 15 (over-research-itis)
ChristianWritingToday offers another list of suggestions for improving your writing, this time from C. S. Lewis. Here are the eight tips with some of my own thoughts. Read the original post for some other good comments.
- Turn off the radio. I’m not as convinced on this one. I do some of my most creative writing when I have the right kind of music playing in the background. There’s something about good music that helps set the stage for me.
- Read good books and avoid most magazines. I wonder what C.S. Lewis would have said about blogs?
- Write with the ear, not the eye. Make every sentence sound good. If you’re writing for primarily academic purposes, be careful with this one. You can spend way too much time trying to make everything sound just right. But, once you start writing for a broader audience, this becomes far more important.
- Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won’t ever be a writer.
- Be clear. Remember that readers can’t know your mind. Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you.
- Save odds and ends of writing attempts, because you may be able to use them later. This will also make you feel better as you go through the editing process. It’s hard to delete something that you worked so hard on, so tell yourself that you’re saving it for later. You probably won’t actually use it, but you’ll be much happier.
- You need a well-trained sense of word-rhythm, and the noise of a typewriter will interfere. I like the sound of a typewriter.
- Know the meaning of every word you use. Pay close attention to this one. There’s a tendency in academic writing to use all the latest “jargon” without a clear understanding of what terms mean. Please don’t.
(HT Tim Challies)