Monthly Archives: March 2012

Meet Nevena Georgieva

Posted by March 28th, 2012

A hello and goodbye  (of sorts) from the Book Country roster.

 goldfish jumping out of the waterIf I’ve learned anything since graduating college and starting my career it’s that you never know what life is going to throw at you. The publishing industry, in particular, is full of people who bounce from house to house and from department to department, trying to figure out their niche and specialty. Sometimes new opportunities appear before you that you never even considered, and then you find yourself wearing a hat you didn’t know you could ever pull off.
I found myself in this situation a number of times since starting in the book business. From sales to editorial, and from editorial to launching a digital initiative here at Book County. And it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I share with you that I’m in that place once more, donning a newchapeau as I prepare to move on from Book Country to a new role on the Penguin technology team.

While I will no longer be Book Country’s trusty editorial coordinator as of Monday, April 9th, I will still be a part of the community. With more time and energy to work on my own writing and freelance work, you will start to see me in a new capacity here on the site, while still participating and sharing my editorial expertise when I can. (I’ll also be working with BC when new features are added in my new role!) And I’ll remain a Book Country moderator, so don’t think I don’t still have my eye on you, friends. 😉

Nevena Georgieva - smallerThere will also be another set of careful and determined eyes on you very soon with the newest addition to the Book Country team as our intern Nevena Georgieva joins the team full-time! Nevena has already been participating on the site–having great discussions on the forums (like this one about Steampunk versus Victorian) and writing thorough and helpful reviews (check out her review of ELVEN SOUL for example.)

Nevena will be starting as Book Country’s assistant on Monday, April 23rd. She is bright, passionate, and just plain awesome, so let’s give her a warm welcome and get to know a little about her! You can also follow her on Twitter: @nevgeorgieva.

DP: Congratulations on joining Book Country, Nevena! Tell us, what made you want to be a part of this project? What’s your favorite thing about the community?

NG: Thank you, Danielle! I’m really excited to be staying on permanently.  When I applied to the internship in January, all I knew was that Book Country had something to do with social media, and that the website constituted a community for genre writers. It wasn’t until I talked to you and Colleen at the interview that I grasped the full scope of the project and was blown away. I wanted to be part of the new digital frontier of publishing, surely, but what really inspired me was the idea that Book Country was a safe haven for writers, a digital space for them to exchange ideas, give feedback, and polish their own writing prior to publication.

As you know, English is not my first language, so I am firm believer in the idea that every writer is on a continuum of writing skill: there is always room for improvement, but there is also the very realistic prospect that with hard work, a writer can reach new, previously unthinkable, horizons.

I used to be extremely self-conscious about my English, what with the signature Eastern European accent =), but with the help of many people – professors and friends – and through my own efforts, I became the writer and reader I am today. Of course, there is always more to learn, but now I know how to block the critical voices in my head and feel confident in my writerly voice.

So that is what pulls me the most: I read a work on Book Country and get really excited because I see the potential that through revisions can be molded into a truly beautiful work.

I am also really impressed and humbled by the level of discourse that goes on the discussion boards daily. I try to absorb that knowledge and use it to be useful to writers whose books I’m reviewing. It’s the true meaning of collaboration.

DP: You mention in your profile that you are originally from Bulgaria. How long have you been in the US? What made you decide to move here?

NG: I have been in the US for 6 six years now.  Back in Bulgaria, I haphazardly took private lessons in the language, but what counted the most was reading books in their original English. I was a voracious reader in high school, even though books in English were really hard to find. There was this foreign language library in my hometown the size of a NYC studio where I spent quite a bit of time. I went to a Math & Science high school, so moving to the US to study English literature was not a traditional career path to say the least. Most of my friends went on to become computer engineers.

It was my dream to move to the US, and New York in particular, so when I got a scholarship to St. John’s University, I grabbed at the opportunity.  I haven’t regretted it – what New York offers and what a small, beautiful country in the Balkans doesn’t is the promise of the myriad niche communities that one can discover and belong to. Book Country originated in New York but its online presence spans the globe. I hope it can be another community where I can belong and feel at home, even as home is thousands of miles away.

DP: You’ve spent a great deal of your time in grad school working with writers in an educational and more literary capacity. Have you always been interested in genre fiction too? How did genre woo you from that kind of work/literature to Book Country?

NG: Yes, I have been a writing consultant at the St. John’s for almost four years now and I am about to get my master’s degree in English.  I think that many of the principles that we have espoused at the Writing Center – focus on the big picture; being friendly; treating the students with respect; not being overbearing but talking to people as to a peer – are as true for the Book Country community. There is a lot I learned at the Writing Center that I will bring to this job.

I’ve always read genre while not necessarily being aware of the label. If you have a good story and tell it well, you have my attention. Because of my background in Utopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I have a particular predilection for George Orwell, Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Isaac Asimov, and yes, Suzanne Collins. I am now really delving into all kinds of genre fiction and having tons of fun.

But my way from academia into genre is a little circuitous. At the beginning of my studies, I was an Economics major. I initially took English classes as therapy, thinking that if I lost the accent I could inhabit the classrooms incognito, hiding my foreign identity. That’s how I encountered postcolonial and vernacular literature for the first time, and they helped me think through a lot of personal questions that I had about straddling a hyphenated identity. I still have a slight accent, but through my foray into English, I have confronted my uprooted condition, understanding it as a part of larger framework of historical and cultural discourses. I know, that was a mouthful…

My focus as a grad student has been the British novel, so a lot of dead authors from the Regency, Victorian, and Late Victorian periods! While this might seem irrelevant to genre fiction, I beg to disagree. The very standards of novel writing that we follow today originated in the Victorian era. The Victorians had a lot of interesting stories to tell, and I am not surprised that Steampunk, a subculture that that has excavated many Victorian themes, takes cue from people like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Jane Austen, while seemingly now removed from the sexually inflected romance genre, was far more interested in love and sex than we tend to think. In fact, one of my favorite professors writes about the botanical vernacular Austen espouses as code to screen the romantic content of her novels at a time when sex was taboo.

Genre fiction wooed or hijacked me: for a long time I considered an academic track, but I think it’s the isolation of research is what turned me off eventually. I get excited about books, and I want to be able to share that excitement with other people now.

DP: Do you do any writing yourself? Genre or otherwise?

NG: I am definitely more of a reader. I wrote a couple of short stories for classes: for example, I once wrote an alternative history piece of Thomas More’s Utopia. For years, the academic voice has been what I’m most comfortable with but the idea of writing genre is definitely tempting now. I haven’t mustered the courage to do it yet, but I will probably do so in the future. I think I also owe it to the people whose work I have reviewed/will review. It takes a lot to subject yourself to the critiques of others, so I commend all the people on Book Country who do.

DP: What are you most excited about as you move into this new role at Book Country?

NG: I’m incredibly excited to start at such an intellectually stimulating company. I look forward to just absorbing as much as I can about publishing, genre fiction, and the people in the community.Book Country is relatively young, so there is something extremely invigorating about being part of a small team that will see it thriving and branching into different directions over the years. Few people get to have such a gratifying job.

Well, friends, I don’t know about you, but personally, I am thrilled that Nevena will be such a big part of the BC community. She’ll be an excellent addition to the site and I hope that you will trust in her as you have trusted in me over the past year. I truly appreciate all of you–your advice, your acceptance of my advice, your passion and motivation, and your friendship–and have a strong feeling that Nevena will too. 😉 I’ll miss being with you all every day as your editorial coordinator, but I can’t wait to interact with you all as a writer now as well!

Featured image: iStock Photo, © Mikael Damkier
Photo of Nevena Georgieva courtesty of Nevena Georgieva.

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Book Packaging: Another Way to Get Published

Posted by March 22nd, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (March 15, 2012)

Learn about the ins and outs of book packaging from experts of Stonesong agency, Ellen Scordato, Alison Fargis, and Judith Linden.

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What is book packaging?! It has nothing to do with literally packaging a physical book. It is an alternative way to get published, also known as book development. Book packagers may be enigmatic figures to laymen, but any industry insider will tell you that they play a fundamental role in the book world!

As one of our guests Alison Fargis told us, the book packager is like an independent film producer, in charge of doing everything that has to do with putting a book together — working with writers and publishers on a project management level, offering comprehensive editorial, design, and production work, as well as marketing and PR. Book packagers help publishers execute difficult or crash projects. Or they come up with their own idea for a book and hire writers who bring the concept to life.

How does this pertain to YOU? Well, the book packaging industry employs a ton of freelance writers and publishing professionals. It is a great way to break into the biz and get writing credits. Our special guests to tell us more are the ladies of Stonesong, a NYC-based literary, publishing, and book development agency — Ellen Scordato (@EScordato), Alison Fargis ( @AlisonFargis), and Judith Linden ( @JudyLinden1) — mostly package non-fiction.

Ellen Scordato is a book packager who handles production, design and custom publishing, and has a quarter century of in-depth publishing experience. She used to be a managing editor who loved production and midwifing great ideas, and it is the passion for project management that got her into book packaging.

Alison Fargishas 17 years of packaging and book development experience. She often puts on a literary agent hat, representing clients such as bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm, Michael Buckley. In 2002, Alison and Ellen co-founded Stonesong.

Judith Linden joined Ellen and Alison at Stonesong in 2004 as Executive VP, Literary Agent, and Director of Digital and Print Media. Prior to joining Stonesong, Judith spent nearly 20 years as an executive editor and book developer at two major publishing houses.

Together, they have produced many bestselling titles, including The Daring Book for GirlsDating the Undead, and Smart Words. With 75 years of combined editorial and packaging experience, they are a treasure trove of pub insight! Here’s a taste:

@JudyLinden1: Basically we [book packagers] are agents plus. We follow a project from inception to final form. For PETFINDER [a book about adopting shelter dogs], we found the org, wrote proposal, sold it, edited every word, managed photos, delivered ms to pub.

@EScordato: We don’t have writers on staff. We compose teams specifically for each project, depending on the expertise needed.Suppose we a book on culinary history or a craft book. We might look for writers who have blogs on the subject, or teach on it.

@AlisonFargis: We also look for writers for the crash projects publishers send our way.

@JudyLinden1: [Biggest subjects in non-fiction book packaging right now] cooking, design, lifestyle, diet, relationships, pop psychology, pop culture, fashion, parenting among others.

@EScordato: Yes! We certainly are [considering every delivery medium]. Very active in developing ebooks.

@AlisonFargis: I keep resumes for years. I may not have a gig for u right now but if the right project comes along I will call.

If you missed the chat or want to refresh your memory, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document HERE. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all of our chat participants!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats are taking a short hiatus, but typically occur every other Thursday. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Dates, topics, and special guests are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter @Book_Country.

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Grammar: It’s Important!

Posted by March 8th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (March 1, 2012)

Every writer needs to know the basics. That’s why Grammar gurus Mignon Fogarty, Patricia O’Conner, and Stewart Kellerman gave us a little lesson.

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Most people don’t like it. Some people are obsessed with it. But all writers need to know it….Grammar. It’s not just for copyeditors! Incorrect grammar and punctuation can change the meaning of your words. It can change everything.

That’s why we asked Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl) and the writing duo Patricia T O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman(@Grammarphobia) to join us for a Twitter chat and talk about some common grammar mistakes and answer your grammar questions.

To give you a little background on our experts, Mignon is the founder/host of “Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” She does posts, podcasts, the works to help people improve their writing by going back to the basics. Patricia and Stewarthave co-written a number of beloved writing guides, including the Grammar “bible” Woe is I and writing guide Words Fail Me.

Here’s are some of the chat’s highlights (You can view the entire transcript using the link following):

@GrammarGirl: Subject-verb agreement is impoartant and can be tricky. For example, people get confused by joining words such as “in addition to.” It can  make a subject sound plural when it’s not.

@Grammarphobia:  [There’s] nothing wrong with using a preposition at the end of a sentence. That’s a notorious myth.

@JonathanDalar: I always think of semicolors as dividing joined sentences of similar thought; it seems to work well for that.

@GrammarGirl: Sometimes a sentence needs a “that” to avoid a misreading: Aardvark maintains THAT Squiggly’s yard is too large.

@Grammarphobia: Creative writing doesn’t justify limp, flabby writing.

@asalinguist: My students constantly say “amount” intead of “number of” something for count and non-count alike

@GrammarGirl: I met someone once who worked on Word’s grammar checker. He said he was sorry.

@grammarphobia: Punctuation is supposed to make reading easy and writing more natural. Lack of punctuation can be bewildering.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up to page 1.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this lively discussion!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter: @Book_Country.

 

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Don’t Be Good; Be Brilliant!

Posted by March 1st, 2012

To stand out from the sea of submissions, you need to sparkle!

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There’s a book on my shelf, taking up valuable space, that I just can’t wait to throw away. I’m a collector, serious style. Brodart jacket protectors on all my hardcovers, don’t touch anything without washing your hands, reading editions and archiving additions for special titles — that’s how serious. So what’s this about wanting to throw a book away?

Well, I’m also a very occasional writer, and like a lot of you, I’ve got that one title that once made me go, “If this can get published, anything can. Heck, I can write better than this crap.” So it’s there, on the shelf, waiting for me to actually finish a novel, at which point I get to reward myself by tossing it in the trashcan where it so clearly belongs (and no, I won’t tell you it’s title). But until then, an author with a finished novel, even a terrible one, is still one novel ahead of me, and so there it sits.

Now, obviously there are bad books out in the world. Lots of them. But taking off the wannabe author hat, and putting on the editor one, the truth is that the way to get published is not to aim for being slightly better than crap. As the editorial director of Pyr Books, I get pitched books anywhere from three times a week to three times a day. I read hundreds of manuscripts, partials, outlines, proposals. I probably sift through a hundred possibilities for every one good book. And while you might think that the vast bulk of what gets rejected is unreadable drivel that’s easy to dismiss, that really isn’t the case.

The truth is that most of what comes in is perfectly competent. Stories with an interesting protagonist with a clear motivation, on a journey with a definite beginning, middle and end. The problem isn’t that it’s full of problems. The problem is that it’s competent, okay, decent, moderately well-executed, perfectly servicable… You get the idea.

To stand out from this sea of submissions, you need to sparkle. You need to be un-put-downable. As jaded as editors are, you need the manuscript that makes you want to grab the phone immediately to call your spouse, boy/girlfriend, best friend because you can’t wait to talk about it, the manuscript that has you leaping out of your chair because you’ve got to do something to disperse the energy that’s rushing off the pages and into your heart. You need to be brilliant.

That might sound discouraging. It shouldn’t be. Yes, it’s a lot harder to be brilliant than to be merely competent. But you know what – when you are brilliant, it’s a lot harder to resist as well. I truly believe that everything brilliant finds its way eventually. Because as jaded as we editors can be, we like getting excited by a book as much (or more) than anyone else. So instead of keeping that book on the shelf until you’ve earned the right to throw it away, maybe we should all throw away our “I can do better than this” books. Maybe the shelf should only contain things to aspire to, not works to excel but works to equal. What a library that would be.

Sounds brilliant.

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