publishing


Self-punishing* to get noticed by a corporate publisher?

 

 

*Self-publishing

Dear Sir:

Your blog giving advice on doing quality self-publishing is riddled with careless typos. This does not inspire confidence. Yours, PJ

Dear Madam:

Your failure to distinguish between a Viking boat & a pirate ship when discussing cover art does not inspire confidence. Yours, PJ

Dear Madam:

Your blithe suggestions on how to squeeze more time out of a busy life for writing has PRIVILEGE scrawled all over it. No confidence. Yours, PJ

And that’s about all the writing/indy publishing blogging advice I can stomach for one day. Why did I inflict this upon myself in the first place? Clearly, I’m a masochist. Oh, I think maybe I’ll learn something that will revolutionize my life, get my creative life back on track and running smoothly. But no. There isn’t anything in any of these blogs that couldn’t be figured out by a half-witted horse with dyspepsia.

They are all written with such twerpy exuberance, too—the exuberance of those who have spent little time in the salt mines, whose biggest challenge in life balance seems to be choosing between watching TV with the wubs vs. social networking vs. actual writing.

I try hard not to think in terms of moral superiority—my reality vs. your networking reality—because as the old saying goes, “Everyone’s bag of stones weighs heavy to them.” But there’s generally an undertone of moral superiority running through these blogs, too. Sometimes not an undertone, but an overt and snot-nosed tone, if you want to know the truth. It’s hard not to get all morally-superioritying back at them.

Yet still these blogs are passed back and forth between hopefuls as if there’s some talismanic magic attached to them. The sad truth is that most seem more about having a platform for selling books than genuinely trying to help anyone. But I open each new one with hope, cynicism firmly suppressed because…well, I would like a little talismanic magic right about now. Maybe there will be some golden piece of wisdom my gassy, half-witted horse hasn’t already shared with me.

You see, I really am a masochist. Bring on the leather, the whips and chains!

ETA: There is actually quite a bit of really good advice out there, too, but wading through the self-involved claptrap to get to it can be quite discouraging.

You know that thing where you’ve edited a book so often you’ve cut all the life out of it? Yeah, that.

I’ve been reading the last hardcore edit I did on Shivery Bones with an eye towards e-booking it in some future when I magically have the time and wherewithal. I haven’t read it in a year and a half. This is the first reread where I think the edit has actually damaged the book. I went from 122k to 109k and that seems to have stripped some of the flow and life. Understand, we’re talking about a first draft that came in around 150k, which was definitely bloated and in need of cutting. But I think now that 122k version may actually have been pretty tight. The last edit cut into bone.

Certain parts of the manuscript are better for that cutting, but other parts have a disjointed, lifeless feel. I’m considering going back to the the non-eviscerated versions of those scenes/chapters.

Some books can be cut down to bone and still retain life, but not all. I recently read a novel by an author I love. Her series tend to be magically imaginative and inventive, and her books are usually big. It doesn’t matter. I love being in them no matter how long they take to read. But she’s not on the bestseller lists, not quite, and I’ll bet you anything her publisher started blanching at those big manuscripts. I say that because the current book, part of a series I’ve loved as much as the author’s other books, is much shorter than previous ones. Throughout the reading, it felt incomplete to me, missing beats, wanting something that kept slipping through the fingers–cut to the bone and unable to quite articulate itself as those bones clattered along. A large part of the life had been taken away. I intuited that it had once been there, but no more.

In the current publishing climate, this is happening quite a lot to midlist writers. Even to some bestsellers, I hear. It’s a dirty, crying shame. These are half-books, not allowed to be what they naturally are. E-books, in the other hand, don’t have to be as skinny as paper books to “turn a profit.” (Though, don’t get me started on shaky publishing accounting. Better you should read this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.) (Thanks, safewrite, for the link.)

E-books don’t care if you go a little long. Which is not to say they shouldn’t be edited and made as tight and crisp as possible, but you don’t have to kill them in the process. They don’t have to rattle along like a defleshed skeleton struggling to keep itself in one piece.

Random quote of the day:

 

“I don’t know which way to turn.  I cannot decide what to write next.  That which I desire to write does not seem to be what the editors want…I am full of stories and zeal and fire…yet I am inhibited by doubt, by fear that my feeling for life is false.”

—Zane Grey, before he sold his first novel, quoted in Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women by Thomas H. Pauly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Sometimes, for your own sanity, you have to stop reading “How To” articles and blogs and go away somewhere else in your mind for awhile. Really. Stop reading. Save yourselves. You can always pick them up again in a week or a month or a year. You won’t miss anything of importance. It will all be recycled endlessly again and again and again.

This is somewhat related to today’s quote of the day.

I’ve taken the week off from writing due to bad attitude. My attitude has improved mightily. I’m still going to take the week off from writing. The Universe has reinforced this decision by sending me a rejection this week on a story that’s been out for months.

‘Course, the message could just as likely be, “Get back to work.” Good thing I don’t believe in Cosmic Messages.

Except, of course, when I do.

Blood Geek was supposed to be a quick and dirty edit because My-God-I’ve-Edited-This-So-Much-Already-What-Could-Be-Wrong? But there’s that old Samuel Johnson quote, “The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully.” I’ve found the same to be true when I get close to actually releasing a piece of my writing to the world. I cannot see releasing something that I didn’t do my best job on.

So…I’m going to have to rewrite several chapters of Blood Geek because the voice is just wrong, wrong, wrong, and I’m going to have to rewrite a couple of other chapters from the ground up in order to make the heroine protag instead of thinking about protagging. I just can’t see any other way of getting around that. I’ve tried tinkering with the material that’s there countless times and it just doesn’t work.

I have examined my mind, my heart, my spirit to see if this is just a perfectionist delaying tactic, but I honestly don’t think it is. Whether anyone looks at this book or not, it’s still going to be out there. Why would I want it to be out there if it wasn’t the best book I could make it?

The rest of it reads pretty well to me. Decent escapist fare. So I’m going to take a week off, gird my loins, and get back to the dirty work next week.

At the risk of sounding like I’m disappearing up my own hindquarters, I wanted to refer ya’ll to a blog by Melinda Young. She mentions me by name and my post from yesterday, so it is a bit like log-rolling. However, I mostly wanted to refer interested parties there because of Melinda’s similar-but-different view of this subject, plus some remarks on traditional publishing by Lori Devoti.

I’ve been reading some good blog posts lately about self-publishing and quality control. First from Richard Parks:

“Evolve or Die”

Then, by way of his comment thread, Jim Van Pelt:

“Writing: Self Publishing and Quality”

“Evolution of a Writer”

“So How, Exactly, Does a Writer Grow”

“Evolution of a Writer (redux)”

They support the new publishing paradigm of “indies,” but they also talk about the vetting process that Big Time Publishing does to separate the wheat from the chaff for readers, to cut down on the high ratio of noise to signal when everybody who can starts slapping their writing against the walls of the internet. They also talk about the stages in a writer’s development, how rejection and writers’ groups and critiques, et al., help the conscientious writer improve her craft.

But I’m not going to paraphrase what they say. Read the articles yourself—they state their case better than I can restate it.

What I am going to say here is that, for the most part, I think they’re correct. Oh yes, I am considering adding to the white noise by self-pubbing one of my novels, but I don’t do it out of any sense that this is going to be a Brave New World for me: doors that have hitherto been closed to will suddenly fly open and I will become the next web millionaire. I think that if I sell one copy I’ll be lucky. I haven’t got a pre-sold audience, see, and making oneself heard through the sea of static is quite difficult to do without making oneself obnoxious on every writers’ and readers’ forum on the interdweebs.

So no, I’m not considering doing this with the expectation of Incredible! Breakthroughs! and Millions! I’m doing this purely to have something out there, something I can point people to if they happen to get curious.

I’ve done a hellacious amount of writing (almost certainly a lot of hellacious writing). I have done a heap and then some of critiques, and I have received a heap and then some of critiques. I have submitted and submitted and gotten feedback. All of that, the giving and the getting, have been invaluable to me, have made me grow as a writer, have improved my craft. Some very generous and talented writers and editors have given me priceless feedback. I have listened, I have learned, I have grown.

But I have little to show for that yet. Maybe I didn’t listen and learn enough, maybe I haven’t grown enough. Or maybe my subconscious and writerly changes proceed at ice floe speed. None of that advice has been wasted or ignored. I just process it in a different time zone. I haven’t given up on trying to grow and I haven’t given up on traditional publishing, perverse and dog-eared as that belief may sometimes be. I see no reason not to pursue both e-publishing and traditional publishing at the same time.

Because I do believe in that vetting process. It provides a valuable service. I do not believe there is a vast conspiracy to keep the little people down. Not everybody is as good as they think they are. Myself included. I want to put out the best product I can. I want to grow an audience. Writing isn’t just about screaming to be heard, it isn’t just about gushing out Your Message. It’s about honing your craft. For that, you need the input of other people, the ones existing outside your own head. Not the ones who love you and want to be your friend, or the ones who you’re related to by blood or marriage. No, I’m talking about objective others who have no vested interest in convincing you that you are a Special Puppy and a Very Good Dog. People who are generous enough to be honest with you about what works and what does not work in your Very Special Creation.

That is truly what separates the wheat from the chaff. That’s truly what turns white noise into a beautiful melody.

Here are some more ETA’s to my long list of e-publishing links.

Some of these posts debate one another, which I suppose is a healthy thing. Damned confusing, though. The truth, I suspect, is that nobody really has a handle on the current truth. The publishing world is changing fast, and changing again even faster.

Book View Café Blog/Brenda Hough – Getting Your Backlist Up: A Report from the 2011 Nebulas.

I’m leading off with this one because it is chock full of helpful links and how-to’s—a great place to start. Thanks to sartorias for providing the link on her blog. Some of these other links were provided by others, but frankly, I’ve forgotten where I got them. But they are much appreciated!

Dear Author – Why DRM Won’t Be Abandoned Soon.

DGLM Literary Agency – If you get it for free…

Sean Cregan/John Richards – Price, Insanity and The Race To The Bottom.

John Vorhaus at Writer Unboxed – Let’s Have a Pity Party.

Ellen Fisher – Intriguing.

Richards Parks – Good Idea, Bad Idea (Ebooks) and Good Idea, Bad Idea – Continued.

Guido Henkel – Take pride in your eBook formatting.

This is part one of a nine part series. You can click through from here to the other posts.

Smashwords – How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords.

Blood Geek cover design by F-Bod Studios.

ETA: Okay, no more excuses left. Time to finish the last chapters of the current WIP rewrite so I can start editing the old novel…

Two more ETAs for my list of posts on e-books and e-publishing. This first one also has some interesting perspective on the Amazon announcement that e-books are outselling paper books at their site.

Victoria Strauss: The Gloves Are Off.

Forbes: Is there gold in your backlist?

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