I’m going to blather a little bit because my oldest is going to be graduating next week and he’s got the orthodontist, I’ve got family coming in from out of town and my house is a disaster and I’m on a deadline.
Publishing is in flux right now. Lots of exciting changes. Some of them scary. Some of them exciting. Some of them both. There’s a lot of talk out there. Some of it makes sense. A lot of it is people attempting to make their way through this ever changing landscape. But also some of it is put out there by people with agendas. And I don’t like fundamentalists of any type. Because they never have anyone’s best interests in mind but their own. Fundamentalists are small minded, incapable of seeing a big picture and unwilling to understand their vision/experience is not the only one.
THERE IS NO ONE TRUE WAY in publishing. Period. Generally, I’m of a do what works for you mindset, but I cannot with these people who get on their blogs and claim there is only one way and everyone not doing it that way is being oppressed, or is stupid, being taken advantage of, etc.
Publishing doesn’t need messiahs. So when I go to any blog and read something, even from a point of view I might not necessarily agree with, I’m interested in learning. I can read it and think, “nah, not really” and move on. But some people, even when it’s not about them, or doesn’t concern them, seem to need to respond, not with logic but with “I know you are but what am I” stuff. Boring. Unhelpful.
First, it is absolutely all right to read something you don’t agree with and not comment. To move on. The internet is full of things I don’t agree with. Things that are incorrect. If I argued with everything I disagreed with online, I’d do nothing else with my life but argue in blog comments. But I do have stuff to do like writing books and being a wife and a mom and all that stuff.
I don’t care if you self publish, traditionally publish, work with digital publishers or do a combination of those things – do it right. I know it’s alluring to take that first contract offer, or to rush your book straight to be uploaded, or whatever – but this is about the long haul. What will people think about your writing if you put out something too fast? If you choose a publisher that doesn’t edit well or you tell yourself you can’t afford to hire an editor?
It is not an insult to tell writers to work hard on their fucking craft. Yes, I used a bad word. And I don’t need to hear “well she has errors in her book” because SO WHAT? How does that change anything? It doesn’t. I’d never accept that from my kids as an excuse and I’m sure as hell not accepting it from another adult who wants me to take them seriously as a professional writer. Yes, your book will have errors in it. The book can be looked at by crit partners, multiple personal edits, your editor, your copy editor and your final pass editor and still have a mistake you don’t see until it’s in your hands after release day. But that’s not an excuse to just give up either.
This business takes a lot of energy and effort. Sometimes that will include costs. Costs like editing. If you can wait a few months longer to save up that few hundred bucks to put out a product that speaks far more highly of you than if you rush, that time is worth it, right? Just like if you get a “R&R” from an editor (Revise and Resubmit) from one, better known publisher and an acceptance from another – don’t necessarily jump on the one who tells you you don’t need any work. Who the publisher is makes a difference. The reputation of the publisher counts for a lot in a very crowded market. Your book can be the best thing ever but if you put it out with a pub that has a bad reputation, or no one knows about, how do people find out about your book to buy and read it? Or if your publisher is one people have little respect for because it rushes sub par books out, the assumption by some will be that yours is just as slapdash.
Now, more than ever, it’s not just about the book you have out right now. It’s about the next book, and the one after that. Over time, your books will feed into your career. So new releases will bump up your backlist. New readers will discover you from your backlist and snap up your other books. That’s how you create a base. This is not only a traditionally published issue, or a small published issue. If you mean to make a go of writing as a career, you need to be thinking ahead. So when you toss out a book that isn’t ready, or go with a publisher who can’t help you get where you need to go, you may get that goal of publishing a book, but what’s the long term cost?
Everything feels so urgent. I get it. I feel it too. Sometimes it’s hard to resist that need to get out there with your book when it seems like there is so much going on you can be part of. But publishing isn’t going anywhere. It will be here tomorrow and next month and next year.
I hear a lot of “well what do you want for .99? People don’t expect much from that.” And I cringe. A crappy product is a crappy product. And it tells consumers the creator does not care about quality. That means less people come back to buy your product in the future. This is not about publishing format in any way. This is about you, as the creator of that book, putting your all into to it each and every time.
This is not to say everyone will love your book. Even if you put eight years into something and make it absolutely perfect, there will be people who don’t like it. And that’s how it goes. Your voice is what draws readers in, but it’s not going to be for everyone. So honestly, when I see “advice” that you should respond to bad reviews I cringe. What are you going to argue about? If someone doesn’t like your book who are you to respond to argue with that personal taste? You gotta do what you gotta do, but I guess I see this as part of this business. One you can’t change. Reading is personal. No two people are going to read a book in the same way. Everything you experience in your life goes into how you perceive things. It’s why you can have a page of reviews and have one that says you have sex on every page and the book is sex, sex, sex, and the next review complains there wasn’t any sex in the story at all.
It’s the internet. EVERYONE has an opinion. When you show up to a blog and start arguing with a reviewer, when you think, “Well, lots of people at amazon loved it!” is an actual argument, you only look like a dingus. A thin skinned dingus. You CANNOT win. People feel how they feel. It doesn’t matter if it’s accurate or not. You are not a special snowflake. You will be reviewed negatively. People will say things about you like they know you. Some people who claim they hate your writing will go all over the internet and say it over and over and over again. Just because it’s the internet and some folks make being unhappy into a hobby. And yet, you can’t stop that. You just have to find a way to ignore it.
Essentially, this is a community. And like any community you’ve got the guy who never shuts up about how awesome he is while he’s got crumbs in his beard and he’s looking down your shirt. You’ve got the church lady and the people who think they know it all. Mainly though, most of the people in our community are pretty cool. They like to help each other, give advice, give a shoulder to cry on too. Just you know, don’t be a dick. It’s pretty easy to use your company manners when you’re in public and save the commentary for your BFF in private. There’s a lot to learn from so many people if you just listen. And if you walk away when the person talking is full of crap, or insulting to you.