Archive for Frank Fiore

Look at This.

“WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 …”

From the New York Times.

Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-U.N.L.V. football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much — but they were written by a computer.

OK. So a lot of sports writing is formulaic (even romance novels for that matter). But does that mean that novels can be written someday by computers? Will a computerized monkey someday produce all of Shakespeare’s plays?

Silly, right?

The again, there’s something called FictionFixer.

FictionFixer™ tracks and analyzes more than 250 characteristics of current bestselling novels. The software combines this data with a consensus of expert advice and opinion to define a model representing what the public expects from such books.

They support their claim with their ‘Pineapple Upside-Down Cake’ recipe.

Published recipes have been around since the 1903. The recipe had changed over the years to reflect the ‘tastes’ of consumers.  As the recipes for the cake changed, the world ‘voted’ with their taste buds — i.e., the trends towards more natural ingredients and low carbs, salt or butter.

As FictionFixer™ sees it:

Just like the example above, while the unique ingredients are what makes (the cake) stand out, certain core ingredients must be present in a novel for it to be in the running. There is a model, and it too, evolves from year to year. Fortunately, the world continually votes on this matter; they vote with their pocketbooks, and these votes are recorded on bestseller lists. But what are the ingredients? What is the current model?

FictionFixer™ seeks to answer those questions with their software.

FictionFixer™ reveals how close to the mark your novel is in relation to the current model of what people are buying. And, the software tells you exactly what to change to come closer to the ideal. The more you know about what your readership expects, the easier it is to communicate a particular story or message.

Are programs like the one that wrote the sports story and FictionFixer™ firing the first competitive shot across the novelist’s bow?

Or is that just a lot of wishful thinking.

If novelists wrote for what came before them Tom Clancy, who created the new genre called the techno-thriller or J.K. Rowling who created Harry Potter, would still be slaving as unknowns over their typewriters.

No. The computer program that can imitate human intuition hasn’t been invented yet and those novelists who write what they like and not necessarily to the market will still be here and successful after the shine on the computer mouse has faded away.

Sep
13

Writing Palette Cleansers

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Every once in a while a writer needs to lighten up. So, here’s some palette cleansers on writing.

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork – Peter De Vries

Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them – Flannery O’Connor

Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure – Oliver Herford

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor – Ring Lardne

It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word – Andrew Jackson

A good novel tells us the truth about it’s hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Good authors, too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose… anything goes – Frank Sinatra

I write to escape … to escape poverty – Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing – Kingsley Amis

It’s a damn good story. If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check – Erle Stanley Gardner

Writing is a lonely job, unless you’re a drinker, in which case you always have a friend within reach – Emilio Estevez

When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer – Isaac Bashevis Singer

The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes – Agatha Christie

After being Turned Down by numerous Publishers, he had decided to write for Posterity – George Ade

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment – Josh Billings

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying – Woody Allen

Smile. :-)

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“Few professors of English literature will ever admit to it, but the truth is that popular writers have had just as great an effect on the people of this nation as Dickens, Poe, or Melville and their classic works.”
Editor James L. Collins

 

According to Shelly Thacker, “There are two kinds of fiction in today’s market. Literary fiction and popular fiction.”

Literary fiction is the fiction of ideas. Its primary purpose is to evoke thought. The writer’s goal is self-expression. Any consideration of the reader—if one exists at all—is purely secondary.

Popular fiction is the fiction of emotion. Its primary purpose is to evoke feelings. The writer’s goal is to entertain the reader. Any consideration of self-expression—if one exists at all—is purely secondary.

 I agree with her definitions and I also agree with her explanation in defense of it.

 I’m not saying that you can’t express yourself in a romance or mystery or science-fiction novel, or that literary fiction can’t be entertaining, or that popular fiction can’t be thought-provoking. We can all name novels that do it all. My point is, before you sit down to write your book—and more importantly, before you try to market it—you had better be sure exactly which kind of fiction it is you’re writing.

And if you’re writing popular fiction, you must be aware that the marketplace is reader-driven. You can entertain, astonish, provoke, even manipulate the reader—but if you want to sell, you can’t ignore her. The reader is your whole reason for being. With every page you write and every choice you make, you need to ask yourself, “What affect will this have on the reader? Will she enjoy this? Will she rush out to her local Barnes & Noble and pay $7.50 to buy this?”

In other words, literary fiction is fine if you want to write for writers—ala: the New York Book Review and nominations for the Nobel Prize for Best Literature.

As for me, I’m a hack writer and just ‘show me the money!

Shelly again.

If your particular genre or sub-genre is popular among huge numbers of readers, your manuscript has a better chance of selling. If your chosen genre is less popular, your chances decrease. Supply and demand. It’s a simple equation—and no amount of whining will change it.

Perhaps more difficult to understand is that this same concept applies not only to genres, but to every element in your book. If you’re trying to sell a novel with a less-popular setting or “risky” themes, you’re going to have a tough time. And it’s not the publishers’ fault that your manuscript isn’t selling (so stop whining); it’s simply that fewer readers want to buy books with those elements.

Shelly goes to say though, that after you’ve built up a successful following, you could try ‘riskier’ themes – themes that your readers are not expecting of you. That has a double edged sword.

You may surprise them with its success or they might surprise you with its failure.

I am fortunate that CyberKill was a success. It was a techno-thriller. A common genre. My next three books, the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash, are thrillers also—each with a different theme.

I am writing now, a novel that is unlike anything I have ever written. Different from the thrillers I hope will create a nice reader following for me. So I will be taking a risk on changing the formula of my writing, so to speak, with this next novel.

Let’s see if Shelly is right.

Sep
04

My New Author Site Is Up

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I guess I’ll toss my hat in the ring along with Norman and Todd.

My new author site went up a few weeks ago. You can find it at www.frankfiore.com

While there, check out my new thriller book series the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash.

Jul
18

A Perfect Storm

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There’s a squall front moving in with a set of weather systems that will create a perfect storm for electronic publishing and writers.

The weather systems that will create this perfect storm are:

  • Tablet Computers
  • Apps as Books
  • Adverting Supported Novels
  • Transmedia Books

So what’s the current state of books today?

The Survey Says …

Statistics from Parapub, a publishing industry research organization found:

1. Generally 80% of US households did not buy or read a book last year.

2. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the past 5 years

3. 42% of college graduates never read another book after college

4. 1/3 of high school graduates never read a book for the rest of their lives

5. 57% of new books are not read to completion

Now we all know that, in general, US adults can read – the grade level is debatable. So why the lousy stats?  Could it be that the book as is no longer offers the immersive experience that interested readers in the past?

Even the Kindle, Nook and Sony reader, thought good stand alone devices, can not give a rich media reading experience that can compete with the rich experience offered by the Internet.

Let’s look at it this way. In the words of Cody Brown:

If you, as an author, see the iPad as a place to ‘publish’ your next book, you are completely missing the point. What do you think would have happened if George Orwell had the iPad? Do you think he would have written for print then copy and pasted his story into the iBookstore? If this didn’t work out well, do you think he would have complained that there aren’t any serious-readers anymore? No. He would have looked at the medium, then blown our minds.

Tablet Computers Will Change Everything

The tablets are coming!

In January of 2011, Forrester Research predicted that by 2015, 82 million U.S. consumers (one-third of U.S. online consumers) will be using a tablet computer. That may be too conservative.

Right now, the Apple iPad owns the tablet market, but a slew of new competitors will hit the market by this Christmas shopping season.

Even Amazon is getting into the act. Seeing the handwriting on the tablet, they plan to release an Android-based PC in the Fall. If Amazon sees that tablets are as good if not a better choice than their Kindle – that tells you something about the future of books.

Tablets are bigger than the eReaders and offer more types of use and more immersive reading experience.

Tablets might just re-invigorate the publishing industry.

There’s An App For That Book

Tablet computers will usher in the use of books as apps.

Even B&N’s Nook sees the future of books as apps. Here’s a quote from a recent press release from Barnes & Noble. Notice how they refer to NOOK Color as a “tablet” and mention apps before books.

“Barnes & Noble continues to make its bestselling, critically acclaimed NOOK Color Reader’s Tablet even better, delivering customers a wide array of high-quality apps, books, interactive children’s books, magazines and more. The company announced it doubled its number of NOOK Apps since recently introducing a broad collection of popular apps.”

An LA Times article stated:

…tablets will offer not just text but also sound, images and video — which will all be commonplace in books someday, in a balance we can’t yet foresee. This may undermine the primacy of text, but the text in most books today is far from sacred, and a little multimedia can do a world of good in most genres — in how-to books, for example. Think back to the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages; even when text was sacred, people liked a little multimedia on the side.

And unlike books files, apps are upgradeable on the fly.  Back to the LA Times article:

When a book is produced as an app, rather than as a file to be read within an app, all the features that might need to appear in an ebook reader app, as listed above, need to be developed specific to that app. This has the advantage of flexibility – features such as navigation and styling can be customized to suit the actual content, and are not limited to the usual set of ebook features. Multimedia can be embedded in creative ways that are not limited by what an ebook reader app may or may not support. Genuine interactivity can be a part of your book app.

In this sense, a book app more closely resembles an edition of a book, with an upgraded version being a new edition – some publishers could view this as a nice source of revenue, persuading people to re-buy an app when they upgrade devices.

Consider this.

When TV first came out and Madison Avenue was creating ads for the new medium, creating an ad was basically the same as creating one for radio. There were still pictures of the product with a voice overlay like radio ads.

It didn’t take Madison Avenue long to discover that, with the new medium of TV, that ads could move!

The challenge is not just to adopt the technology but adapt it to do things differently. Merely taking today’s content and converting it into digital content follows the logic that digital is merely just another format or manifestation and that it will be read the same way.

Or to quote Cody Brown again,

There are literary techniques, (and) there will be iPad techniques. I’m 21, I can say with a lot of confidence that the ‘books’ that come to define my generation will be impossible to print.

Freemium – Advertising Supported Books

The general consensus is that electronic books will continue to drop in price and that the eventual price for an electronic book will be zero.

If this is true, how will publishers and authors make money?

Get a free book – see and ad? Has it’s time come?

Too new idea of an idea? Nope. Not really.

If you want to see the future, you can go back in time: see Galleycat’s brief history shows that ads in books aren’t new.

Peter Lebensold explained that “the earliest Penguin paperbacks (published for British servicemen during WWII) also had ads — for the likes of Gillette.”

Reader Andrew Wheeler wrote that “paperbacks from the ’60s and ’70s routinely had bound-in advertisements,” and reminded us that author Fay Weldon pioneered the art of novel product placement with her book, The Bulgari Connection. As reported in 2001, Weldon was paid by the Bulgari jewelry company to include the brand in her story.

Quoted in M.J. Rose‘s an excellent Salon.com piece about the topic, Weldon defended the practice: “It always seemed to me that in advertising you were making up little stories and using language to sell products. And with novels you were making up little stories and using language to sell ideas. So for a while I sold products and then I moved on and sold ideas — like feminism. And now I’ve done a book that is mostly one but a little bit of the other.”

Amazon is already flirting with the idea but from the wrong direction. They are discounting the price of their platform – the Kindle eReader – instead of the actual content – the book.

But that will change when ads in electronic books become the norm and new economic model will be established.

The storm clouds are building on the publishing industry. If writers and publishers are smart, they will weather the storm by keeping in mind the weather systems discussed here and remember just what business-and it is a business-they are really in.

The failure to think about what job your product does for the customer, rather than the tools or approach you’ve used to do that job, is the reason why many established companies fail to make the transition when there is a technological change.

Hence the old saw, “If the railroads had realized they were transportation companies, they’d be airlines today.”