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Posts tagged ‘editing’

Friction

I bought a frozen lasagna for dinner for the family. I love to make lasagna, and have a great recipe a fellow author gave me, but… There was friction. In other words, it was Friday night, had been a very long week, and I was so tired it hurt. So I did something to reduce the friction, and bought the darn lasagna.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, it relates both to the writing, but more importantly, to the marketing and sales of our work. We want to reduce friction for our readers, but not too much. Frictionless is also a bad thing… But I digress. I’ll come back to that in due time. Friction in the context I’m using it is anything that makes the reader work harder to overcome. We’re going to say our readers have worked a long day and just want a book to curl up and relax with – literary fiction is the very definition of added friction to a book, which is why those are the books people love to say they have read but don’t actually ever finish reading. So how do you reduce friction in a book? Like sanding a piece of wood – you start out with the obvious of removing typos and poor grammar, then you switch to the finer grit of making sure you’re historically accurate, or consistent through the book with a character’s development, or… you get my drift. At the end you have a smooth, polished work.

But not too smooth. Here’s the thing. People remember ‘sticky data’ that doesn’t just drop through the colander of their brains. We all have colanders for brains, this isn’t an insult. We have to: we’re constantly bombarded by input, and if we didn’t learn how to filter all – well, ok, most – of that out, we’d be gibbering in the corner with our hands over our ears and our eyes squeezed shut. So the input pours through the colander, but sometimes something is too big or too sticky to just fall through, and that we pay attention to and remember. You don’t want your book to be so frictionless it falls through and is instantly forgettable. We want, to return to my wood carving metaphor, the grain of the wood to show through and give it some character, some unique qualities. Your book should still reveal your voice, the unique way that you write. If – and really, this should be when – you hire an editor, keep this in mind. They need to be helping you polish, not taking a belt sander to it and obliterating the interesting features that are your style.

Friction is, if anything, even more important when it comes to sales and marketing. Let’s look at two ways: in-person bookstores, and online bookstores, to begin with. When was the last time you went to an in-person bookstore, a brick and mortar? How far did you have to drive? That was a lot of friction, wasn’t it, before you got to the books. Now that you’re in the store, how easy is it to find the book you want? Or the section you’d like to browse to find a book, at least? Last time I was in a bookstore they didn’t have the fiction sorted by genre and it was a little annoying to say the least. Fortunately I wasn’t there for fiction, I wanted comic books, and I browsed the antique section of the store while I was there because I love beautiful books. But those aren’t organized at all, just ‘this looks old’ and shelved. So it adds a lot of friction to my shopping experience. Why do I go back? Because this store offers a ‘free book’ coupon and that reduces the friction on my bank account.  Note: I’m talking a used book store, here. Their books are mostly $3 and comic books are a buck. My kids adore them, and frankly, so do I. Now, the last time I was in a ‘new’ bookstore was the local Barnes $ Nobles, which is a fifteen minute drive from the house (good) in a very congested shopping area (bad) and we only bought one book, from the bargain rack, because I refuse to pay full price when I can hop on Amazon and get the discounted rate. But the authors!! you’re saying They need to be paid! 

No. Here’s the thing. As a businesswoman, I like supporting fellow small businesses. I’ll buy books at full price from fellow Indie Authors. Heck, if it’s an option I’ll read the book through KU and then buy it, so they get paid twice (if I really like the book, this is a nice way to say thanks to a creator). As a budgeting wife whose whole goal is to live frugally and not get into debt, I’m out to spend money wisely and plunking down twenty bucks on a (paper) book that may get read once is not a wise decision. I have a monthly book budget, by the way, one for fiction and one for research because I am a writer. So, back to friction. I don’t give a flip about supporting the big fiver publishers. So them? I buy discounted or even used.

Most Indies have already figured out that a great way to reduce friction and get more sales is to lower the prices of their books. Not having ritzy Manhattan offices to keep up appearances, they can afford to set their trade paperback prices around $15 and their ebooks around $5 for a novel. Now here’s where we get to the inverse effect of friction: if you reduce the price too much, or make the book free, you remove so much friction the buyer mentally discounts the book in their head as being less worthy. Free ebooks have a very, very low read rate. You might give away thousands of them, and maybe hundreds will get read (if you have a good cover, but that’s another post).  Ebooks, in case you haven’t already realized it, are perhaps the ultimate in friction reduction for not only book reading, but book buying. Above I asked about the last time you drove to a bookstore, and the time and hassle involved in that. For online shopping? Pull up Amazon or your favorite ebook site, and click, you’re done and reading two minutes later. I was doing this last weekend when I was stuck in bed with a pinched nerve, trying to keep my mind off the pain. Binge reading, what a drug. You don’t have to get dressed – not even into jammies, if you don’t want to – to shop online. You don’t have to risk your life in mall traffic (suck it, B&N, I’m never coming back again). You don’t have to (Shudder) put up with people to make a purchase.

Friction, by the way, is why you shouldn’t limit your sales outlets too far. I’ve seen anti-Amazon advocates calling for selling books just through personal websites. That adds so much friction that I’d be surprised to hear of them making sales. Any sales. There are reasons why aggregator sites work, just like big department stores. Personally, I’ve chosen to add friction by not having my books available through Nook or Kobo and it wasn’t just that I saw the writing on the wall for the Nook years ago when I first compared a nook and a Kindle side-by-side. I’ve added that friction in order to reduce friction by having my books available through Kindle Unlimited. It’s not perfect, but you have to admit it’s very darn close to being frictionless for the reader, which means that if they are enjoying the story, there’s nothing to break them out of the reading trance as they march through an entire series. KU lowers the entrance hurdle for new readers to your work, and that reduces the friction, too.

Speaking of which! The anthology I have a story in, the one I was snippeting last week, is available for you now, and you can get it in paper, ebook, and read through KU. Just click here and you’re there! How’s that for frictionless?

 

 

 

 

Blast from the recent past — Write like the Wind

(Sarah is at TVIW this week and asked me to fill in for her. Well, in light of some of the comments we received in the various threads asking what you’d like us to write about as well as some conversations I’ve had recently with other writers, I thought this post Sarah did back in April might be appropriate. — ASG)

Write Like the Wind

There was a time I wrote a short story in six months.  I took days to write it, weeks to lovingly polish it, MONTHS of agonizing over every word.  Then I sent it out.  And it was rejected.  (All but one, which was accepted eight times, but killed magazines and/or editors. No, I don’t know why.)

Then I attended the Kris and Dean Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop (the first) and in those two weeks we HAD to — had to — produce five short stories and two novel proposals.  I did.  Also, at this point all of those short stories have sold.

After that I launched into a year of a short story a week (while writing two novels.)  It was a challenge of my writers’ group.

We didn’t succeed.  I think I ONLY wrote forty short stories.

The funny thing was, recently, reading over my past stories (I was transferring things from diskette) that the quality difference, after about a quarter of a story a week, more or less, was marked, visible and obvious.  I was much better after a quarter of forced production.  And from that point on, pretty much all the short stories have sold.

Novels too started being much faster.  Honestly, if I can stabilize my health at some point, a novel a month is neither unfeasible nor unreasonable.  I once wrote two novels (Heart and Soul and Plain Jane) in a month, and finished another one, though I can’t remember which (might have been one of the Musketeer books.)  In fact the main reason I didn’t write a book a month back when I was healthy was that in traditional publishing there was nothing I could do with that many books.  (Ah, for a way to send my old-self a little note.)

One of you emailed me last week and asked me if writing that fast was some trick that could be taught.

Sort of.  I’m not sure it can be taught, but it can be learned.  It’s a frame of mind you put yourself in, a mental block you remove.  And the only way to put it firmly in place is if you PRACTICE it and set yourself deadlines and goals.

However to the extent I can help, there are some principles to keep in mind that might help break the barrier.

1- how long you take to write a story doesn’t make it better or worse.  My highest-selling book was written in two days, and the next-highest-selling in two weeks.  By the standard that counts “how many people pay out good money to read this?” my faster written books are the best.

2- nine times out of ten the things you’re agonizing about on the story aren’t really important.  No, seriously.  Things like passive voice, overuse of to-be and too many adjectives and adverbs are things editors and critics care about, but most readers don’t notice, not if your voice is confident and strong enough.

3- Keeping a strong voice is much easier if you write the story fast.

So, that’s why.  Now HOW to do it.

1- Write as fast as you can.  If you are a slow typist, try voice dictation.  Put your mind in the story and write as fast as humanly possible.

2- Don’t edit.  I can’t say that enough DO NOT EDIT.  Write to the end without editing.  If you typed teh instead of the, it will wait till you’re done.

3- To facilitate do not edit, DO NOT read back to see what you did yesterday.  For best results leave yourself a sticky note about where you are going next.  That way you don’t need to read what you wrote and be tempted into editing.

4- if you’re an outliner, have a complete outline before you start, and then mark on the outline what you’re doing tomorrow.

5- if you’re a partial outliner like me, outline what you’re doing tomorrow at the end of the work day.

6- Did I mention write as fast as you possibly can?  Short story or novel race to the end.

7- Once you’re done fix typos then let it sit for a week.  This is an excellent time to send it to your betas, unless like me your idea changed in the middle and your beginning and end don’t match.

8- Fix continuity issues.

9- Make sure all your foreshadowing points right.

10- Make sure you got all your points in.

11- Do not revise/get caught in rewrites more than three times.  Three times, and let it go.

12 – move on to the next project.

Now I can say all this till I’m blue in the face, but you HAVE to practice it.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE it.  But if you do, I guarantee you’ll get better.

The Madness of Editing

I’ve reached that point in the construction of a novel where beta readers have kindly pored over my words, let me know what is wrong with my baby (nothing fatal, thank goodness) and now I have to pick out parts of the design and rework it. I tend to create metaphors for stories that akin them to tapestries, or needlework. It’s not like stone-carving, you can fix a mistake once it is made. Mind you, if you pick at one thereafter you might suddenly find yourself holding a whole lot of where-did-this-come-from and a plotline unravels before your eyes.

This book is a new experience for me. I started it as I always do, with a clear burst of story, a panoply of images in my head, i wrote feverishly… And that is where it went sideways. It took me two years to finish it. As an extreme pantser, keeping the story alive in my head that long was difficult. For one thing, when I first wrote what was then called Puppies in Space, I didn’t have any idea that I’d later write Jade Star, which turned out to not only be in the same universe, but a direct prequel (by a century, but a central character)  to the story in the re-titled Tanager’s Fledglings. Now, I am having to go over the beginning, which was intended to be a short story, and foreshadow the weight of the tale to come, the appearance (Midway through the book) of a very strong character, but not tie it so closely to Jade Star that TF won’t stand alone.

Editing is madness, I tell you. And it isn’t helped much by my starting work this week, slowing the editing to mere pages a day, and some of that conscious time spent re-reading what I did yesterday to get back into the story. It’s not that this job is tough, it’s demanding mentally and physically and I’m loving it, it’s just what I needed. It’s just… I’m a writer. I’ve spent the last few years either sitting in classes, or on my tuchis in front of a keyboard. My step-tracking app is telling me I’m doing between 4-6 miles a day. And on top of that, I’m learning new stuff daily, and this is Science (I really love this job, have I said that yet?) So if I screw it up, bad things will happen. So I’m focused on absorbing absolutely everything at once. That does not leave much room in the noggin for words.

Words are important when editing. I’m not the kind of writer who feels a need to massage her words into something elegant and refined. My characters aren’t that fancy and will give me funny looks. But I do feel the need to find the right word for the situation. Harder to do when you’re fog-brained.

On the other hand, editing is a process that requires you to read your own work, something I quite frankly am terrible at. I feel all self-concious and awkward. Like the first day at work when you are mostly trying to stay out of people’s way and not break something. Editing runs the risk of breaking the story. Keeping a light touch is just as important as finding all the necessary shadows to cast a faint outline of what is coming for your hero. Much of the story magic is made in the unconscious mind, and you have to trust that too.

I’ll keep this short today, because I’m rambling on. I’ll be at work today, but will check in when I get a lunch break, and again in the evening to answer comments. Play nice!

 

 

Indie does not mean Alone

I was talking with my mother the other day about writing and publishing. Mom is a good writer, and has nonfiction articles published, but not yet her fiction. I’m looking forward to her fiction being complete, and it’s not just that I’m biased toward my mom. But the conversation, and another comment I’d seen on social media, got me thinking. I’ve chosen an independent career, but that does not mean I operate alone.

As I am preparing a book for publication, it has already been read, commented on, edited, and not just by one or two other people. For this book I had an unusually high number of alpha readers. It had three, my First Reader, and two others I could trust not to blow smoke in my *ahem* but to tell me if they saw real problems. Most books don’t need that many – may not need any at all – but for this one where I was struggling with my confidence and inability to distance myself from the story, they are the only reason I finished it.

Once the book was finished in rough draft, I sent it off the beta readers. The comment I’d seen another author make, about only ever using two to three readers, always the same ones, and ones who wouldn’t steal the manuscript, rather boggled me. One, that height of paranoia bordering on arrogance… The manuscript is worth stealing, really?! And further, stealing when there is an easy record of who sent it to whom and when? But besides that pathology, there is a pitfall to using that few beta readers, and never changing them up. If life happens, and it will, you the author are left with even less feedback. And two to three readers is insufficient. Sarah Hoyt taught me years ago that you don’t make significant changes to a manuscript unless three people independently tell you of an issue. And you aren’t going to get that with a tiny reader pool. Also, solicit opinions outside your usual readers. If you can get someone who has never read your stuff before, that’s great! They are less likely to suffer from confirmation bias towards your work and can objectively assess it. I’m not saying send your book to all and sundry. But I am forever grateful to my beta reading pool, who have helped my writing more than they can ever know.

But it doesn’t stop there. From a cover artist, to editors, the Indie Author team is often made up of hired professionals, networked and bartered services, or some combination of those. But rarely does the author work completely alone, and when they do, it handicaps their work. If none but them see the book, they are going to be blindsided by bad reviews.

James Young, a great mil SF author and occasional guest post here, put out a terrific post on cover art, but the process he outlines for working with an artist, from price settings to contracts, is good stuff for working with any professional. I’ve been on both sides of that equation, as author and artist. Let me tell you, it’s not fun to shell out money you can’t really spare for work that never gets done. What he says about the PayPal friends payment, and no recourse? Ever wonder why I wound up becoming a cover artist? I didn’t have a choice – that money was gone, and I needed a cover, but couldn’t afford it at the time. It was a great lesson and led to good stuff for me, but it hurt. I’d rather you learn from my mistakes than repeat them. On the flip side, as an artist, I’ve done work, not collected a deposit, and been out money for supplies and a bunch of time when the author suddenly backed out. Lesson learned: don’t work with certain people and always collect a non-refundable deposit before starting work.

It’s a collaborative effort all the way, what we do. From writing groups to, well, the Mad Genius Club, the great thing about Indie Publishing is that you’re never alone. That’s why I don’t say I’m self-published. I may be pressing the button, but I have a team at my back. Sometimes I am part of that team behind an author. I get silly proud when I see my covers on great books hoping them sell well. I will always be there when someone who is struggling with their confidence about being a writer wants an ear to listen. I have friends who put up with me moaning about how this book is horrible, terrible, no good and will never be finished. In the past I’ve had writing groups and critique groups where I was anonymous (great for developing thick skin towards criticism) and prompt groups… All those people are a part of my path to publication. I’m not alone, and neither are you.

 

It’s Business

Although I am an Independent Author, I still think of myself as a publisher. Actually, I wear several hats: Publisher, Art Designer, Editor, and Author, among others. I don’t edit my own books, I edit others, including non-fiction. But it does help that have worn the editor’s hat, when it comes to judging how well the work is being done on my own books.

I’ll come back to that in a minute. I told a fellow writer recently that I had decided when I started out that I wasn’t self-publishing, I was opening a publishing house. It’s a tiny one, and only a handful of people will ever even be eligible to be published by it – one of them I am married to, and two of them gave me life, if that helps you understand my intentions, although to date none of those three have finished anything – but it is, nonetheless, a business. The goal of a business, as I see it, is to make money. Period, full stop. What it then does with the money is a different kettle of fishies.

Having established that part of my business mission, I then looked at how to go about making money. Well, in my books the only way for a publisher to make money and still respect themselves in the morning is to deliver a quality reading experience to the people who buy books. Here is where it veers from very simple – make money – to very complicated.

I realize that most people are not going to be inclined to wear all the hats that I do. I only attempted it because I had already been running a business for more than a decade, so I had a clue (or so I thought) about what I was getting into. I’d had some graphics design training, and rather a lot of sales & marketing. Most folks don’t. Which is fine. There is nothing wrong with knowing you need some help to put out the best possible product. It’s why I rely on a team of beta readers and editors to get my books in shape when I’m done writing them.

When it becomes a problem is when I see authors simply hand off their manuscript to someone else with no real idea of what’s happening behind the scenes. Even if you aren’t planning on doing all the things, you need to know all the things, so you know when they are FUBAR.

This post was brought on by my receiving an ARC from a friend and fellow author. The book in question is a sequel, I enjoyed the first one, and it’s put out by a small press. The story is a fun one, and I’ve been enjoying the chance to read it, knowing I can say kind words about it. However… it’s badly in need of editing, and I am sad because I know it’s not going to get it. The first book, which I read when it had already been out for some time, was also badly in need of editing. Actually, thinking about it, the second one has shown some improvement and I know that’s because my friend is becoming a better writer (you hear that? Yes, you are! I’ve edited some of your non-fiction and I know) not any outside interference. Also, I know that the cover for this book (I haven’t seen it yet) is likely to suck eggs, because, well, the first one did (although it was re-covered at some point with a marginally better design).

It’s not just that I feel like ranting over this, even though it’s a crying shame that my friend’s book will get out of the gate with two major handicaps. It’s that this is a good example of what can happen if you turn your work over to someone who isn’t going to handle it well and turn out a good product: readers won’t blame the publisher, they will blame the person with their name on the cover of the book. So before you let the publisher touch your work, you need to check them out.

No, I don’t want to hear that your options are limited, you have to take what they give you, and like it or leave it. We’ve talked before about how the publisher/author relationship is often parallel to an abusive marriage. The only way that is ever going to improve is for the authors to stop bending over and taking what’s given them with ‘please sir, may I have another?’ on their lips. The first step is to walk away from the abuse. The next step is to make sure you don’t tumble right into another abuser’s clutches.

Before you submit a manuscript, even, you need to do your research. You wouldn’t, for instance, send a romance novel to Baen. Baen treats their authors right, and it’s worth you looking at that relationship as a guide to what you want for your books. You want great editors – not just for piddly little typos, but content, structure, and that rarest of birds, a development editor who will help you grow. How can you tell if a publishing house has these? Easy… if you know something about editing. Which is where I come back to having worn the editing hat. If you know what you’re looking for, you can see by sampling the product if that publisher is actually editing. They don’t all. Some of them don’t even bother with typos, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.

Even before the editing, the covers will tell you how much the publisher cares. If the covers suck, run. If the editing sucks, run. If you google the company and find that they have a reputation as a scam, or authors are suing them for royalties, run. Ask around discreetly of your fellow writers and see what sort of reputation this publisher has. Do your homework. Don’t do the equivalent of a three-day bender in Vegas, Elvis was involved, and now you don’t know your own last name.

I hate to break it to you, but you’ll never just be able to write. If you want to be a full-fledged author, you have to treat it like a business.

Adding the Sizzle

Grilled lamb with medjara rice

My job as a publisher is to make your mouth water over that book even before you’ve opened the cover. As a writer, it’s my job to make it taste as good as it looks.

There was an advertising saying somewhen, I don’t recall where I first heard it, that you aren’t selling the steak, you’re selling the sizzle. Needless to say, making books smoke and sizzle isn’t the way to sell them, but adding some polish is.

To return to the metaphor I started exploring last week, of books being marketed not in a monolithic marketplace, but in a bazaar, a fair full of fantastic wares full of shoppers who are on visual overload – how do you make your book stand out? One of the first things I can tell you is that it’s not all about the writing.

Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT saying the story doesn’t matter. It does. It’s vital. If that steak comes out of the kitchen sizzling merrily and smelling great, the reader’s eater’s mouth starts to water. But the plate is plunked in front of him by a surly server who grunts something about gender inequality and then disappears for the rest of the meal (or worse, hovers and critiques the eater’s taste in food, apparent privilege, neo-nazism, and so on). On the plate is a paper-thin cut of meat, cooked until it’s grey all over, maybe a hunk of charcoal on one corner, and it tastes like cardboard. You can bet that eater isn’t coming back unless there are no other choices.

Fortunately for readers, there are other choices. There are books that have been edited with care, wrapped into professional-looking covers, with proper layout and design throughout. It’s the equivalent of walking through that marketplace and being offered a really great taco from a street vendor. It smells wonderful, it tastes great, and you don’t have to pay for the expensive meal with the disgusting steak.

Tacos

If you’re ever near Mason OH I can tell you where to find the place…

Don’t like tacos? Or steaks? You have choices as a reader in the new marketplace. As a writer, you’ve got the readers headed toward you hungry and looking. What are you going to do?

  • Either learn how to be, or hire, a professional cover artist. No, wait, let me explain. You don’t want an artist (well, you do, but I digress) you want a designer. Beautiful design will make up for lacking art.
  • Have your book edited. Structural edits if needed, proof edits for sure, and as I mentioned last week, you can either hire someone, or you can barter for services. The book might look beautiful but if it leaves the reader with mental indigestion they won’t be coming back.
  • Learn how to make keywords work for you. Readers don’t just browse the marketplace, they search out what they want. If your wares are with, say, the taco vendors when the readers are looking at silk scarves, you’ll be left wondering why your sales are so dismal.
  • Spend time on crafting your blurb, or find someone to hire/help you with that. The MGC commenting community has been helpful to folks with this in the past, so today if you have a blurb, put it in the comments for critique.
  • Don’t make your book look too different. Readers use certain cues, often unconsciously, to assess the worth of the product in front of them. Take the time to look at the top sellers in your specific sub-genre and break apart the components which are similar, dissimilar, and then look at your book to see how you can both signal “this is a zombie romance” and still look new, different, and you.
  • Chicken Satay

    Perhaps you prefer your meat on a stick for ease of eating on the go? (click on picture for recipe)

    Don’t offer just one thing. Yes, I know everyone has to start somewhere. But be ready to keep writing once you put that first book out there, and be prepared to not sell much until you have enough to make your booth look interesting to readers who prefer to know there’s more where that came from.

  • As a corollary to that last, make your series look coherent. Covers should have a common design thread (typography and similar art styles are good ways to accomplish this). Somewhere on the book, indicate that it is part of a series. Somewhere on the sales page, let the reader know which book in the series it is – most readers hate to pick up book three and feel totally lost in the story. Amazon has gotten very good at pulling series together and offering them as a bundle, but you must make it clear in your set-up or this won’t happen.
  • Do some active marketing. It need not be time-consuming or expensive. There are many different options from blogging to buying slots on promotional mailing lists, and we have talked about them here at MGC a few times!

Once you are up and running in that virtual marketplace, other options become available. You can ask your regular customers what they’d like to see you offer. I did that earlier this week on my blog, asking if there was interest in an omnibus version of my completed Pixie for Hire Trilogy. You can offer wares directly from your website for more personal touches, as I’ve started to do with signed books and original art. Now, I’ve gotten some interesting suggestions, like the requests for coffee mugs and t-shirts with my artwork on them. And I have thoughts on what may be marketplace mistakes (a coloring book?). But you don’t know what will work until you try.

You can also talk to your fellow vendors. Sure, just like in a real fair environment, some of them will be paranoid and suspicious and assume you’re trying to steal customers from them. Others will be gracious and helpful, and you’ll find yourself doing what I used to do: “Oh, yes, it is a beautiful scarf, isn’t it? And so warm! You’ll find them at the book an aisle over and four booths down. Enjoy!” Only now I acquire, read, and review books I think my readers will like. I know I can’t possibly write fast enough to keep even the slowest of my fans amused all the time. So I make sure they are happy by sending them to other authors too. I’m also doing this quirky thing called Eat This While you Read That, where I highlight an author’s food suggestion along with a book to read while the meal is prepared/eaten. It’s been fun!

Your fellow marketers can also help with finessing your set-up and delivery. That’s part of our mission here at the Mad Genius Club. I can’t speak for the others, but for me, I do this to pay back, or forward (longitudinal diffusion – it goes in every which direction!) the help that has been given to me over the years. I like being helpful. Plus, in the principle of ‘see one, do one, teach one’ I am in the teaching stage, and learning as I go. It’s all good, and the new authors who come comment here make it a joyful and fulfilling experience.

Huh. I wandered a bit off track there. Ah, well! See you in the comments.

Oooh, more advice

First off, sorry for the delay posting. The last few weeks have been interesting in the proverbial sense and it all culminated with me being up all night writing, something I haven’t done in a very long time. There simply isn’t enough coffee anymore to help this battered body of mine continue going after no sleep for more than 36 hours. So, a nap and shower was needed before I could make any sense this morning. The good news is that I finished Nocturnal Challenge. It now gets to sit on the back burner for a few weeks. Then I will go back and do the final edits before releasing it into the wild. The better news is that it means I can finally get back to work on Honor from Ashes.

And that leads us into the basis for this post.

Yesterday, on one of my few forays onto Facebook, I saw several authors debating the so-called wisdom of an article posted in the Huffington Post. The article is basically a warning for self-published authors not to write four books a year.

Yep, you read that correctly. The headline for the article implores indie authors not to write — not publish — but write four books a year.

Oh, there is a qualifier. The author of the article says, “Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books.” Hmm, could the author be talking about literature? Then I found myself wondering if she had read many traditionally published books recently. I have and most of them, the vast majority of them, do not come anywhere close to meeting this standard and these authors aren’t writing four books a year. Could it be that they need to slow down as well?

But let’s continue and see what else the author has to say.

If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.

So, according to the author, no one can write four good books in a year. Note here, she does not qualify it as an indie author can’t write four good books in a year but a traditionally published author can. So, by this comment, it is probably safe to say that the article’s author doesn’t think Nora Roberts or James Patterson or any number of other traditionally published authors are good authors because they write at least four books a year.

Let’s see, she thinks there is a glut of books in the marketplace already — gee, then why are indie and small press books taking more and more of the market if it is in a glut — and many of those books are dreck. Wow, let’s insult not only the authors but the readers as well. Why am I starting to feel like there is college literature lecture about to begin.

It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?

Okay, I agree writing involves learned skills. But unhurried imagination? Someone tell my imagination that. As for the fastidious drafting, I have visions of someone sitting at their desk, the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary at hand, pondering over every word they write instead of worrying about the flow of the prose. Yes, you need to use the right word in the right context (oops, that should be correct. Bad me) but you also have to worry about the flow. If your prose is so stuffy that you bore your reader, you aren’t doing your job.

Oooh, reading the next paragraph proves I was correct above when I wondered if the author of the post was talking literature. She is. She praises the work of Donna Tarrt who took 11 years to deliver her Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Goldfinch. There is mention of Anthony Doerr and Harper Lee.

Now, the author tries to turn it around and make the working author seem less of a real “author” or “artist” than the literary giants of our time. She asks such questions as Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer? What do you hope to achieve? Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned? Or is it about finely crafted work?

And therein lies my issue with this article and the author. She assumes that quality only comes with the length of time it takes to write a book. There is a very definite snob factor in her article. You can almost see her sneering down her nose at the working author. Also note that, up to this point, the only time she has mentioned self-published authors is in the headline. Now, she does get back to them later. However, everything she has said so far could be applied to traditionally published authors as well.

If you want nothing but literary works.

Her issue comes from something she read from — gasp — a self-published author. This interloper dared say that you should write and publish a lot. Our article’s author hates that advice. She hates the publishing a lot and she hates that it was the first piece of advice given. Sorry, but it is good advice. Maybe not the four books a year — not everyone can do that. But the more work you have out there, the more likely it is that you will find someone to read it and they will, in turn, tell someone else about it and your sales will begin to grown.

So here we start getting to the nitty gritty of the article. It seems our author has self-published a book that took her years and years to write. In her own words, she wanted it to be “a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to.” Okay. That’s a great goal. Now here’s the catch, she chose to self-publish when the book had been finished and not picked up by a traditional publisher. Hmm, so she disses indie authors even though she is one.

Let’s keep reading.

According to her, by self-publishing, we are in the “second-tier club”. You see, in her wisdom, she views traditional publishing as the first tier, the better tier, and indie publishing as the snake oil salesmen of the publishing world. We write too fast, we don’t care about quality, we sell too cheaply. I could go on but I’ll let you read the post for yourself. Oh, one last thing, unless we do it her way, any awards, sales rankings, monies made aren’t done the right way because we didn’t sell our creative soul in the process.

Well, that’s all well and good but I’m a working novelist. I write fast — usually — and I write for my reader. My reward is seeing them read and enjoy my work. I don’t sip from the cup of traditional publishing (Baen excluded) that would have us believe that publishing lives and dies only with the traditional houses. I see what makes the best seller lists and I know what the profit statements say. So, for me, I’ll continue to be a hack. I will write and continue to work on my craft but, if that means I write four or more books a year, I will.

As long as they continue to live up to the standard my readers have set for me.