Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catch 22s in Publishing

This is the CATCH 22 of being a published author; years ago, I felt no one could possibly understand the problems and bumps in the road a PUBLISHED author must face. What's HE got to complain about, after all he has one loaf of bread under his arm, and yet he is complaining he has no bread. Who wants to hear it?

With more and more authors now being published with indie publishing and the advent of the Kindle platform, more authors who are published are experiencding such round robins as --"You gotta get out there and market your books" but you can't be so foolish as to get out there and say anything positive about your own work."

This is the crucible. You are responsible for any and all that goes wrong with the book in traditional publishing, but you HAD no control over all the most important decisions from cover art concept to title to ad copy, PR, marketing, etc. But if and when the book TANKS, guess whose ""WRITING" is the problem? The 'true' cause of the failure to 'communicate'?

Then you go Indoe Author and YOU are responsible for all those same decisions, and the book TANKS -- guess who is all out willing to take the responsibility for the causes of the "tanking"? With the freedom of Indie Authorship comes responsibility and accountability. Down to editing, rewriting, all of it.

At the same time, there is a PERVASIVE view that unlike a carpenter or archetect or painter or sculptor, a WRITER has NO BUSINESS liking his own work out lout and in public, that for some damn reason we have to keep it under our beds, this idea that we actually love what we have spent years crafting...what our hands and minds have wrought. That we should have no opinion on our own works anymore than a Hollywood actor ought have a political view, that 'How Dare We be so presumptous! O r that we dare love our 'children' and show any PDA (public display of affection). Or that we dare pound home the fact that we had a BALL writing this last one, or that we dare think it is our BEST work, or that we extremely DARE call it our most literary attempt. Our greatest most ambitious work.  Our most challenging work.

Actors are asked how they feel about a role they played and it is OK for Matt Damon to say that while the Bourne Identiy earned him more recognition and money than did Good Will Hunting, that the part he played in the film he co-wrote is his best work. It is OK for a cosmotologist to go on and on about what a fantastic job she did on someone's hair or nails, but GOD FORBID (for a pervasive number of idgits) that an author dare have a single word of praise for his own work, his own efforts, his blood, sweat, tears, and years of honing his or her skills in a culture that heaps praise and huge amounts of money on silly, insipid celebrity books.

I wrote and rewrote Children of Salem so many times it was rejected by every major publisher in New York twice and thrice in various drafts. I kid you not. I was so devoted to this story that I rewrote it countless times over a 30 year period, but I can get stoned at any time should I say, "This is, of all my books, my most literary work, my most amitious work, one that challenges the reader on every page." No good, BSP, but nowadays it is Kosher to lay out fifty bucks to have the same book reviewed by ten people on Amazon? It is OK to hear it from a paid lacky reviewer but not OK if I believe this aloud?

When I do get attacked, being a Scorpio, I generally sting back. I got into it with one group for a long time because I dared describe some readers, some reviewers, and even some editors as "hack readers" citing the fact that so many are so ready with the phrase "hack writers". Man did I catch hell. More recently, I used the term 'short-sighted readers' who just do not GET what I am doing and man, you'd think I was plotting the demise of the Pope. But when we pay reviewers to review our books, what does that make of the reviewer? Hack writers were called that because they wrote FAST in order to get paid per word fast. If that practice made writers 'hacks' then what does this new practice make of reviewers?

In short, so many goofy people online you have to ignore and just plow the rows you are cultivating, and to hell with short-sighted people and hacks or TROLLS of any sort. Like the sort who take exception to what you choose to place on YOUR facebook wall, for example. Exasperating to run into anyone with such temerity in the real world much less online. Then you have the trolls who devalue your writing based on the price you are willing to sell it for! The same book at 25 bucks is the same book at 99c.

Rob Walker
Children of Salem, Titanic 2012, Dead On, Dead on Writing


Les Morecombe said...

Did someone remove all of the previous comments because Walker's ego was bruised? You should call this site the Nadir Authors Link.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I read with interest this blog yesterday and the comments, pro and con, it generated. It is interesting that all those comments have vanished. Disappointing as well since valid points were raised on both sides.

I don't think there is any "pervasive" feeling against authors thinking their own work is good. I think the issue arises when the author self promotes on a list by tying every comment on every subject into his or her own work. Variations of "Interesting that you speak of Mayan Spaceships, Mary. When I was writing "insert title here" now available on Kindle, I learned that blah, blah, blah" certainly turn me off as a reader. I don't think I am alone in that. My sense of it is that authors who hammer list mates with constant ads for their work, don't get read.

In general, the pervasive attitude I am hearing from more and more readers is that the Kindle, Smashwords, etc is the new vanity publishing. Folks who don't want to be edited, can't get a traditional publishing contract for whatever reason, etc. are finding refuge there. That folks who go that way, no matter how many books they claim to have excellently written, aren't worth reading.

I don't see that as being totally true though I do believe the idea does have some merit. That perception is out there and spreading. Instead of blaming readers, (always a bad idea in my opinion) maybe the focus should be on writing and perfecting the next book?

(an unpaid reviewer at Amazon and numerous other places online and in print)

Hester said...

Just when the debate between Robert Walker and Morecombe was getting interesting, you removed their posts. Unfair!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I would also postulate that "published author" is now becoming a meaningless phrase because anyone can do it.

larry said...

The notion that the title 'published author' is antiquated because there are new ways of becoming one is silly. The notion that "anyone can do it" even more so. One need not look very far to find lots of people trying and only a very small percentage of them actually finishing and publishing a novel, no matter how you define publishing.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Clearly not silly at all if you pay attention to what is happening in the industry.

By the way, Larry, I have a question. On Amazon, your kindle book is listed as published by "Xylocopa Press."

Who, exactly, is that? Is that you?

I did some internet searching and they don't seem to exist.


Rob Walker said...

Any healthy alpha male has an ego and without any ego we get those people who spend their entire lives on the porch swing. If I have too much ego for anyone, that anyone can lump it. I have for over forty years helped out other authors, have sold and published a book on average one and two a year. Began writing in 1955 in 4th grade or so and now at 62, have written 50 booklegnth works, a few that are pretty good, good enough to have won praise and acclaim and a couple of awards.

I don't have to waste my time with people who have only one interest and that is to attack others. As a group over the years, I have been judged a single genre author, and that was my main lament, and still I say anyone who can't see beyond his nose that I write in more categories than most READERS read in because so many decide they can only read in one category...well none of that would bother anyone who has NO Ego or reason to have No ego. You know the pedantic type.


Unknown said...

Where did my comment go??

Rob Walker said...

There was an Area 51 moment wherein all comments left for the nether reaches. ACME has always been a place of shelter from the cold for writers and readers, and there have never been anything negative here, not even so much as a disgruntled old man like me, but rather a place where ideas are shared openly and with a hand open. Archives are full of such. So the kind of discord or is that dischord...will have to check on the spelling later...well disharmony is not allowed here. There is enough of that on DL and other venues.
So the Keebler Elves came in and removed all the nastier stuff, some of which I was responsible for and apologize for. I am in heart a giving, caring individual. Ask anyone who knows me.

Morgan Mandel said...

Darn, I've been running around this weekend and missed all the excitement.

Anyway, my take on the whole matter is to let the readers decide if a book is good or not, not some NY publishing house.

If you're not sure about a kindle book, it's easy to get a sample downloaded first. You can usually tell from that if the author is any good at all.

I've found some great kindle reads on Amazon for free, and some not. Price is not always the determining factor, especially since some of the NY publishers themselves will offer free kindle versions of an authors prior work to get readers to buy the newer one.

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel said...

That would be "an author's" in my prior post. Don't want to do the whole thing over again. (g)


SBJones said...

Everything changes, trying to force every round peg into a square hole isn't going to work. I think you will see more and more indie authors go the way of Amanda Hocking. Instead of a writer trying to shop their story around to publishers looking down on them. Publishers will be shopping writers that make a name for them selves.

It will be interesting to see if the indie authors sign to a publisher, or just stay indie and hire people to do grunt work.

Deb Larson said...

I feel I missed all the excitement while I was away! We've known from the get-go as writers we must become thick-skinned, so we can't let negative remarks keep us down. Write what you need to write, publish where you want to publish and see what happens!

DL Larson