Looking back, looking forward.
I had to look up something in Norse myth for the current WIP today, and it was actually easier to go to A MANKIND WITCH and look it up, than go grubbing in my primary sources. Yeah straight out lazy. And naturally seeing as I had got that far, I read the rest of the book. I enjoyed it… even if I could do it better. Yeah, the author needs to learn a few things. He assumes the audience knows too much Norse and Norse myth, and IMO rushed the denouement. I still enjoyed it, but really I can write better than that bloke.
Looking at your own work through the window of ten years is… interesting. Not altogether comfortable, to be honest! I’m older, more experienced, not necessarily a better writer, because to be blunt some of the fire is less… driven, by years and years ( I started trying to get published in ’92, succeeded in ’98) of kicking against the pricks (look at the original cover of AMW if you want some idea). A degree of stubborn endurance is visible in all authors who’ve been around for more than ten years. Even among the darlings, the chosen ones, there are signs of the stress load authors get tossed at them. Among the ordinary folk like me, if they there after 10 years… they’re exceptionally stubborn, and exceptionally tired. (I see signs of this in Sarah, and it worries me).
There is no doubt that, unless your publisher paid mega-bucks, and you have an editor with time, desire, serious power and influence actually able to drive ALL the parts of the system with whips that you –as an author WILL be disappointed. (Baen’s editorial is good, the marketing, and some of their admin, however I would drive with whips with broken glass studded in them. Pyr’s admin and communications are actually worse. Their marketing made a brief effort (yes, more than Baen. I have never ever had as much as an e-mail from anyone doing that. At least Pyr organized some interviews, and did touch base), and then vanished suddenly away. Lou was a good editor, and consulted me about the covers – which was kind but really not my field of expertise. ) I’m a fifteen year, twenty book veteran. No one will pay more attention and give more effort than you do to the process.
Guys, self-publishing at least means you are in control of everything that you can be in control of and you know that is your best shot – or at least it is all your fault if things go wrong. That said, it requires a LOT of skills and effort and most all time – because being a skilled story-teller does NOT make you good at social networking (and mediocre story-tellers who network and self-promote well, will outsell great story-tellers who suck at it, at least in the short term). There are rare instances of course of people who do both well, and can do great cover art and brilliant layout and have the promotional program all sussed… Well, it ain’t me. I’d love someone else to do that stuff really, really well, better than I could, let me get on with torturing characters. It’s not going to happen (not trad, and not, unless you have more disposable income than me, with Independent books. What I find I have to do is apportion my time, make lists, decide what I am going to spend, and work around that. I’m still trying for ¾ – ¼ split (writing and the rest), but I think I need to accept that needs to be 2/3 -1/3. Which brings me around to my starting point – time between writing and editing. Ten years is nice, but not realistic. I might get lynched, trying.
So what is realistic? What are your programs?
On another tack, I have been trying to put together database of the Hugo Novel winners (I’d love to do do the other categories, but it takes time and well, some things just aren’t available.) It’s going slowly because I’m working out how many years they’d been published, how many novels they’d done, their age, sex and – as this means I have to look up every single author, if there is any overt information on sexual orientation (with married to the opposite sex counting Hetero, unless specifically known otherwise), race, religion (if stated publicly) or political allegiance (I am keeping that to a simple L/R split). There are a lot of “U” (unknown), as well as the publishers.
What has been fascinating so far is the ages of authors I know and love, and the ages at which they wrote the books I know and love. There were certainly very few women in the early years, and some of the authors who were there I simply cannot imagine being on a modern Hugo list – few of the ‘literary’ type, and some just fun – Mark Phillips (Janifer and Garrett) spring to mind. Garrett’s behavior seems to guaranteed to lead straight to the modern PC fainting couch – and yet he seems to have been … um, popular enough with a lot of women despite it. It’s going to take a while, (and the data will be publicly available) and is a time-sink, but is fascinating. Things certainly appear to have been more demographically balanced in politics and religion back then, but not in sex or race. It’s interesting, and I’ll hold off on conclusions until I have a data set to work on.