Monthly Archives: May 2014

Photography for Writing

All Ye Photographers Who Also Write, Enter Here

All Ye Writers, Enter Here — and Learn How to Take Good Pictures!                                      –Photo credit Sylvia Cary

If you’re a writer, you’d better start  1) learning how to take good pictures, or, 2) learning where you can get good pictures for free — because you’re going to be needing them.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then I’m out of a job —  I’m a writer.  But as luck would have it, I also like taking pictures. That’s a good thing because today the Internet (which is now where most of us writers hang out) is all about photos and videos. Consider Instagram. Pinterest. Twitter. YouTube. Consider 152 million blogs. Consider 1.11 billion Facebook users. And they all upload photos. Millions and millions of photos. Every single day.  Just try Googling for “photo apps” or “photo enhancements” and it will be clear to you immediately: Photography is hot! And, of course, the more photographs there are, the more photo-related business spring up, from photo organizing to photo storage to professional speakers who give talks on photos.

Smile!

I’ve loved photography since I was a little kid.  Beautiful photography makes my heart swell. I’d rather go to a photo exhibit than a painting exhibit. In grade school and high school, I usually ended up being the unofficial class photographer, and on paying jobs in adulthood, I often ended up being the newsletter editor/picture taker.  Ditto when I became a psychotherapist and joined a local chapter of a mental health professional association: Newsletter editor and picture-taker.

AWE -- This is one of my favorite photos of my granddaughter. It moves me.

AWE — This is one of my favorite photos of my granddaughter. It moves me beyond 1000 words..

I’ve always had some kind of camera handy, from my Kodak Brownie, to a second hand double-reflex (which I wish I’d kept — it might be worth something on Ebay!), to a string of ordinary picture-snappers, to a series of progressively improved Polaroids (black & white gooey to color non-gooey), to throwaway cameras from the drugstore, to a heavy Nikon with a motor drive (when I was actually working in a photo studio), to a couple of Canon Elphs (increasingly small and light), to regular cell phones with cameras (I never used the cameras), to my current iPhone 5 (which I use as a camera every day — more than I use it to talk on the phone.)

Jeff Bezos: “A Picture a Day”

About thirteen years ago I watched a TV interview with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. During the interview he mentioned taking a picture a day.  I had one of those Eureka moments. I loved that idea.  So much so, in fact, that I decided to do the same thing.  It was a way to keep track of how I was spending my life. I did this “picture a day” thing faithfully for about eight years, printing out the pictures on my little photo printer, and putting them in albums marked “2003, 2004, 2005…” until about 2010 when the style of the particular photo albums I’d been using became unavailable, and that was enough to throw me off-track. Another reason was too much repetition. My life was probably not as exciting as  Jeff Bezos’ — meaning I didn’t have different things to take pictures of every day. After all, how many times could I take a picture of my manicurist, or my cat, or my computer. So I gave up on “a picture a day.” But I didn’t give up on photography. I’m into it more than ever. That’s why I attend events like the Big Photo Show.

Well, this hasn't changed! Men love taking pictures of pretty girls!

One thing that hasn’t changed in the world of photography is the fact that men still love taking pictures of pretty women!  (I don’t know what was going on with the blond women in the blue sparkly thing, leaning over. A contact lens problem?). This was at the LA Convention Center May 17th-18th.     Photo credit: Sylvia Cary

There were also men playing with a drone

While some men were taking pictures of pretty women, other men were having a great time playing with a drone. I started taking pictures of them — when suddenly the drone was right in my face…

Yikes, my first face-to-face drone sighting! This is what you don't want to see outside your window. This isn't the kind of photography I'm talking about here!

Yikes!  My first face-to-face confrontation with a DRONE! This is probably NOT what you want to see hovering outside your bedroom window.

“256 Shades of Gray”

One speaker at the Big Photo Show, Mark Camon, a longtime photography instructor, used the above phrase to make a point:  ” Don’t forget about shooting in black and white.”  I agree.  There are some things that are just made for black and white. Ansel Adams in color? I don’t think so.

When you shoot in black and white, you have to see and think differently. -- photo credit Sylvia Cary

When you shoot in black and white, you have to see and think differently. — photo credit Sylvia Cary

One fun thing about the iPhone is that you can switch from color to black and white just by sliding an icon. Back in the old days, I’d have to carry two cameras — color film in one, black and white in the other.  How things have changed.

Hints, Tips and Apps FYI

photo apps — On your own, you can check out all those thousands of photo apps I mentioned above just by going online and Googling for them. But here are a few things I heard recommended by speakers at the Big Photo Show and by a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, Nancy McFarland, an expert I heard speak two days after the Big Photo Show.

picturekeeper.com — a thumb drive that picks up the photos off your computer, as many as 4000 of them if you are using the smaller thumb drive, but it does not pick up duplicates, which is great. If you need a second thumb drive, it takes up where the first one left off. $30 on up. (I just ordered one because I’m going crazy with all the photo duplicates on my computer).

Forever.com — permanent photo storage in the “cloud.” You get your own personalized web address (ex: YourName.forever.com). $6.95 a month for 36 months or $250 for life.

DropBox.com – well-established storage and sharing site for photos and documents.

Flip-Pal.com – a hand-held scanner for scanning photo prints in place without removing them from the albums. You can also scan larger prints by doing sections at a time and the program “stitches” the photos together into one. Cost: about $150.00

shutterfly.com  – one of many such photo sites. You can upload groups of photos and have them made into books, small to large. Other sites (some more expensive) include Artisanstate.com, Blurb.com and Peekaboo.com.

Animoto.com – create your own “videos” from still photos, or use real videos – free up to 30-seconds; annual fee of about $30 if you want longer videos. Comes with various design styles and public domain music.

morguefile.com – beautiful photos for free to use for blogs, book covers, websites, etc.

dreamstime.com — photos for blogs, covers, etc., but they charge a fee so you need to be careful and check out the details of each choice. Many photos are really cheap — just a few dollars.

Mextures.com – a photo app that adds textures and moods to your photos. (See below)

Compare this with the same picture above, except this one uses an app called Mextures. Pretty cool, huh?

Compare this version of the photo with original above. To create this version, I used a photo app called Mextures.com. Pretty cool, huh?

(c) 2014  Sylvia Cary

Author of “The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published.”

 

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Literary Agents: Rules of Engagement Still Basically the Same

IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) Annual Agents Panel for 2014 (l to r) Telly Davidson, Moderator; Eddie Pietzak, Renaissance Management; Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary; BJ Robbins, BJ Robbins Literary Agency; Greg Gertmenian, Abbot Entertainment. Standing: (on left) Gary Young, Director of Professional Development, and (on right) IWOSC's President, Flo Selfman

IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) Annual Agents Panel for 2014 (left to right) Telly Davidson, Moderator; Eddie Pietzak, Renaissance Management; Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary; BJ Robbins, BJ Robbins Literary Agency; Greg Gertmenian, Abbot Entertainment. Standing in back: (on left) Gary Young, IWOSC’s Director of Professional Development; (on right) IWOSC’s President, Flo Selfman. Photo: Sylvia Cary

Once a year, I attend the Agents Panel presented by IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) in order to get a refresher course in what’s going on in that “other” world known as Traditional Publishing. I’ve spend so many years now as an editor and book doctor helping authors (especially therapists) get self-published that I almost forget that traditional publishing still exists, that there is still a world out there where terms such as “book proposals,” “query letters,” and “rejection letters” are used on a daily basis. I speak “indie publishing” now which utilizes an entirely different vocabulary.

However, since I have a couple of author clients who still hope to be traditionally published, even though they know their chances are slim, I want to help them with their dream as best I can, so I need to keep up.

Every year, the huge room for the Agents Panel is always energy-filled with book people buzzing about publishing. Much as I love sitting at my computer, this event is always a high for me.

Every year, the room for the Agents Panel fills up with book people buzzing about publishing. Just being there is a high for me. — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Rules of Engagement Still the Same

While traditional publishing has gone through some huge and hurtful changes over the last decade and while self-publishing had become “hot,” what’s clear from panel discussions like this one is that traditional publishing is still alive and kicking, even though wounded, and there are still authors who want to go the traditional publishing route (look at the crowd!) and they want to know the best way to approach literary agents who are the gate-keepers to the publishing houses they want to approach.

As the moderator Telly Davidson went up and down the line of agents and asked them questions about how authors can best approach them, it turns out the rules of engagement are basically the same as they’ve always been. But they are worth repeating.

Keeping in mind that there are probably “two schools of thought” on every issue, here’s a brief run-down of the basic hints, tips, do’s/don’ts and advice from the IWOSC Agents Panel of 2014:

  • authors should do their homework!
  • authors should research the agent and agency they plan to approach. (Check websites, directories, etc.)
  • authors should know that different agents have different tastes and want different things (e.g., panelists Dana Newman and BJ Robbins both like narrative non-fiction)
  • pet peeve: not getting the appropriate material from authors
  • pet peeve: authors who spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • every query letters should show the author’s “voice”
  • authors should make it clear in a query what they are trying to say
  • if an agent asks for 50 pages don’t send 100 pages
  • hook readers with a  “grabber.”
  • “I want to be sucked in,” one agent said.
  • in fiction, “I want a strong character with a good arc and a mission.”
  • if the author is asked to send a book proposal, “write good chapter summaries”
  • “a long synopsis of a book I haven’t read is a killer and a bore”
  • go easy on Prologues or Introductions: “People skip them.” (However, some say a prologue works well for an E-Book or when using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature)
  • if accepted by an agent, ask questions: “What’s your strategy going to be?”
  • most agents prefer emailed queries and submissions — but check
  • always check agent’s website for submission guidelines first
  • about memoirs: “It can’t just be you had an interesting life; it has to be more than that. You have to have some kind of connection to the rest of the world so you touch several audiences.”
  • If an agent says, “It’s too small,” it means the book doesn’t have a large enough audience
  • agents want to see that the author has a built-in platform (audience)
  • agents are busy and it might take anywhere from one hour to six months to get back to the author
  • marketing is daunting and today’s it’s up to the author!

“Secret Password”

One big “perk” of going to these writer events in person is that often the panelists and speakers give attendees their email address and tell them what to write in the subject line which lets the agent know you are special because you were there in the room when they spoke. That means they’ll read your query before queries from “those other writers” who weren’t there in the room.

So what’s the secret password to put in the subject line? That’s for me to know and you to find out — when you go to IWOSC’s Agents Panel next year.

(c) 2014  Sylvia Cary, LMFT