Writing Terms Defined

Agent - Reviews the contracts to eliminate unfavorable clauses and protect the author’s interests, allowing the author to relax and enjoy the experience of being published.  In the relationship model of publishing, the agent is the condom.*

Censorship – The suppression of speech, generally by the government or others with authority.  China’s ongoing efforts to arrest and silence those who speak out against the government is an example of censorship.  Getting banned from someone’s blog for being an unrepentant asshole?  Not censorship.  Any questions?

DRM – Digital Rights Management.  The most awful thing in the world.  DRM is the biggest obstacle to the success of e-books.

Freedom of Speech – Your right to express your thoughts and opinions.  This right is not unlimited.  For example, calling Publish America a scam could potentially lead to a libel suit.  (See here for more discussion.)  Therefore, when talking about Publish America, use the alternate term “doodyheads.”

George R. R. MartinNot your bitch.

House Style- I like the word “leapt.”  My publisher prefers “leaped.”  Guess who wins.

Movie Deal – The very first thing your friends and coworkers will ask about when you sell your novel.

Page Proofs - 1. Your chance as an author to review the typeset pages of your book and correct any typos.  2. Your chance as an author to discover all of those larger changes you’ll wish you’d made before, but now it’s too damn late.

Piracy – Illegal posting of copyrighted books.  The most awful thing in the world.  Piracy is the biggest obstacle to the success of e-books.

Research- 1. See Google.  2. See Wikipedia.  3. Go to the library and do it right, you lazy bastard!

Self-Promotion- Blogging, attending conventions, arranging booksignings, handing out bookmarks, and any other activity intended to give the writers the illusion that they have the slightest control over their sales.

Self-Publishing – The writer is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process.  Writer controls and pays for production, retains all rights, and keeps all profits.

Self-Publishing Myths – Exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies used by companies hoping to separate eager young writers from their money.  (See here for examples.)

Writer Guidelines – An I.Q. test.  You’d be amazed how often people flunk.

*It’s just a joke.  My agent is awesome, and I love him.  Please don’t dump me, Joshua!

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  1. 1. Monika

    “DRM is the biggest obstacle to the success of e-books.”

    I’d beg to differ. Limited selection, high prices (compared to paperbacks and discounted hardcovers) and held back release dates are the biggest obstacles in my opinion.

  2. 2. Jim C. Hines

    Monika – Please read the entire post, including the definition of piracy, and let me know if you’re still missing the humor ;-)

  3. 3. Kelly McCullough

    Jim, under research, I have found an even better answer for 3. Email one of the librarians who you have cultivated—you do cultivate librarians, right—and see if they’d be willing to look some things up for you. I find that this tends to make me happy, getting to write more, and it makes the librarians happy, solving puzzles and getting to take credit for same with their supervisors.

  4. 4. Kerry


  5. 5. Lisa Shearin

    LOL! As always Jim, your post is priceless. Agents as condoms give a whole new dynamic to the author/publisher relationship. ; )


  6. 6. Deborah Blake

    Wonderful post as usual. Although it may be the biggest obstacle to the success of e-publishing.

    I love the concept of agent as condom. *snickers* I can see how you got so popular in the writing world…

  7. 7. Jim C. Hines

    Kelly – Librarians are truly awesome. But I find that if I just check the books out myself and read ‘em, I usually end up coming across lots of other good, juicy details for the book that I never would have thought to ask about.

  8. 8. Kelly McCullough

    Fair enough, I suppose a lot depends on what stage of the project you’re at and what your process looks like. I tend to plot and map everything well in advance and do all my more general reading as the stage before that one. If I’m at the point where the research is hitting google or wikipedia it’s purely in search of finishing details and that’s when I call in the librarians.

    Oh, and this whole thing made me grin. It’s just that the research bit also made me also made me think about how I deal with that step. It might be interesting to start a discussion thread on research at some point to see what that word means to different people.

  9. 9. Gabriele Campbell

    a variant of that one is: google Romans and find my blog, then send me an email with questions. :)

    I don’t mind that in case it’s a specific question, but I admit that I got a bit miffed about the one that basically said, hi, my Nano novel is going to be about Caesar, or maybe some other emperor (*insert first eyeroll*), but I don’t know anything about the Romans and I don’t really like reading history books, so can you give me an overview over the Roman history?

    Yeah, sure. I’ll plot your novel for you as well if you want. Just pay me the fee I get for my freelancing work. :P

  10. 10. KS Augustin

    “In the relationship model of publishing, the agent is the condom.”

    And the publisher’s the piston-assisted movement engine. The lubrication? That’s your problem.

    And there aren’t any English-language libraries close by. I have to cross an international border to get to the next-best good one.

  11. 11. Gabriele Campbell

    Ouch Kaz, that’s no fun. I’m lucky that the university library in my town, one of the best in Germany, carries books in pretty much every language ever written. Plus, there’s inter-library loan which covers not only Germany but pretty much all European academic libraries.

  12. 12. Alma Alexander

    Jim,if I didn’t already know you coming across this post would make me run and buy all your books [grin]

    Which, I suppose, falls under the “self-promotion” point in your credo…

  13. 13. Gabriele Campbell

    Oh dear, and now I want to go back and cut one ‘pretty much’ out of my previous post. Damn writer brain. :D

  14. 14. Jim C. Hines

    Alma – I debated doing a longer version of that entry that would have looked like this:

    Self-Promotion- Blogging, attending conventions, arranging booksignings, handing out bookmarks, and any other activity intended to give the writers the illusion that they have the slightest control over their sales. (See also: previews of all of my books at http://www.jimchines.com ).

  15. 15. KS Augustin

    @Gabriele: Following on from the tone of our conversation (and Jim’s post), now you’re just rubbing it in! :)

  16. 16. Gabriele Campbell

    Opps, sorry Kaz. I’ve spent too much time with those un-diplomatic Romans who tried to teach the barbarian Germans Latin at swordpoint. ;)

  17. 17. Elias McClellan

    Mr. Hines, as always I am grateful beyond words for your fresh-baked perspective. The writer’s workshop I’ve joined is sponsoring a meet and greet with agents and supposed buying editors, first week of April. Rather than go out of my mind anticipating every possible thing that can/could/will go wrong, I’ve kept my head down. Typing as fast as I can.

    Having the benefit of your terms, I helps me avoid pitching a smoke deprived, anxiety-fit. A good laugh and consideration of everything else I cannot controll, helps me focus on what I can control which is strengthening plot points and applying a fine edge to my character developement.

    Thanks, as always,

    A State Employee

  18. 18. Jim C. Hines

    You’re very welcome, Elias. Best of luck with the meet-and-greet!


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Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.



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