Books: A Team Effort

Oh boy. The Amazon and Hatchette debate has certainly heated up. The only result, that I’ve seen so far, is that the self-published, indies, whatever you wish to call them, but they’re basically the ones who say they need no one, have all come out ringing the funereal bells for the printed book. But I ask you, have you ever considered that it takes more than one person, the author, to get these books out?

Let me ask it another way. Picture this: you’re at the stadium and are going to be watching your favorite team sport. It’s even your favorite team playing. The opposing team comes out in all of their glory, ready to play. And then, your team is to take the field/court/ice/whatever they play on, and all that comes out is the star of the team. Doesn’t look like it’ll be a good game does it?

Now let’s replace the opposing team with other books, the critics, and all of the ones that will be pushing against you. And let’s place the author, you, in the position of the home team’s star player. How do your odds look now? Not very comforting are they? This is how I see those authors who say that they need no one to make it big. They are the sole player going against the full team. And I don’t care how they were published.

Yes, we all give credit to the person whose name is on the cover of our books. And occasionally the authors will give credit to those who have inspired/helped them, usually through the Acknowledgements section. But, and this is a doozy, where do you think the money goes in regards to the books? Let’s take traditional publishing for example. We have the author, the author’s agent (if applicable), the editors, the copy editors, the line editors, the copy setters, the gallery printers, the proofreaders, the book binders, the publicists, and the stores of all kinds.

I can just hear someone out there saying that they don’t need these people. Okay, so you have to now hire an editor, and maybe a copy editor, this time you have to pay for them. Have you joined a writer’s group? Do you have any beta readers? Have you gotten your story from a news article or an anecdote? Do you count those providers that stock your book, be they digital or brick-and-mortar stores?

You see even a self-published book, the good ones anyway, have a lot of people helping with the author’s work. What’s worse some of these authors seem to think that they don’t need any help editing their novels. Mistakes are easy to miss with only one set of eyes. If you can’t afford the editor, at least let a family member or a friend comb over your work to spot anything that can jar the reader out of the story.

I’m not saying that you should even think about quitting your writing. By all means, write your stories. Just remember books of all kinds are a team effort. Even your e-books. You don’t want to be in the position of our hypothetical team’s star, do you?

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My Obligations as a Writer and a Reader

I subscribe to the Writing-World.com newsletter. In the September 18, 2014 edition, there’s an interesting article on the obligations between authors and their readers by Ms. Victoria Grossack. She made many points that I agree with, and it got me thinking about what my obligations are.

As a writer, I see my obligations in a rather simple light. For starters, I see that writers put something of themselves into everything that they put out. The books are a reflection of the authors. As such, you will not find much vulgarity or cursing, in my novels, short stories, or any of my articles. In my day-to-day life, I don’t speak like that. In the same vein, you won’t find any derision aimed toward God, or any person, nor will you find an obsession with sex in my work.

Another thing I owe my readers is that my work is written and polished to the very best of my ability. It is unfair to both me and you for me to do anything less. Not only should my writing be polished, but my story telling skills shouldn’t leave any gaping plot holes.

My final obligation as a writer is that I must never attack a reader or reviewer that does not like my work. Not everyone will like my style, but this is not the fault of the reader or the writer.

Those are my three points that I follow as a writer. Now for what I see as my obligations as a reader and reviewer.

If you are a long time follower of this blog, you already know my first obligation is to offer fair and honest reviews. I see this as necessary to both the author of said book, and the would be readers who might use my review to help them come to a decision beneficial to them.

I believe that my reviews are a great place to use those manners that most of us were taught as children. Respect is key here. I respect the authors for their work, and all I ask is that they respect me as a reader of their work.

My final obligation is that somehow I pay for the books that I read. Be it with a review for the Advanced Reader Copies, or out of pocket for those that I purchase. There should be a fair exchange between the author and reader. The only time I go for a free book out of these situations, is if I’m looking for public domain books.

The way I see it, I don’t ask for much. My demands on myself are a bit stricter that yours maybe, but it keeps me true to myself.

Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Guide to Punctuation

This is an interesting read. Ms. Truss claims the book is for the sticklers; however, I must disagree. She takes us through the rules, both of basic usage and style specific (the Oxford comma), for each form of punctuation.

Here’s a major warning for the American reader. Ms. Truss is British. Therefore her punctuation is British. However, she does accept and explain that American publications have different rules.

I like the fact Ms. Truss uses both humor and examples to make her points. This is one reason I think the book can help anyone who wants to learn how to punctuate properly.

This is a great book for anyone, especially authors. I’ll be keeping the Oxford comma, though thank you very much.

Are Agents and Publishers Really the Gatekeepers?

This possibly seems crazy to ask, but there seems to be a couple of opposing views on the subject. On one hand, the agents and publishers seem to be interested in only what is selling today. (Not a bad business practice, really.) On the other, works that have gone through the traditional route seem to have more tender loving care lavished on them.

So who is right? Remember, “Twilight” was published through the traditional way. Yet agents and publishes only have so much time in their day, like the rest of us, and only so much room for a new author.

I guess the real question is what would you do in their position? It’s easy to say you wouldn’t publish “Twilight.” And I’m positive Mrs. Meyers received a rejection slip or two. It’s not as easy to say you would find every hidden gem. Let’s face it, “Twilight” is a popular series. Obviously, the publisher who gave it a home, knew or saw something that I don’t. If I had been in charge of that publishing house, untold numbers of teenage girls would’ve missed the chance to swoon over Edward, or was it Jacob? I never got past the first page.

Let’s face it, publishers and agents are human,(say it ain’t so). They’re not the guardians of the literary gates. If they like your work and feel that they can sell it, you’re in luck. If not, either try another agent/publisher, or accept that you may have a niche specific work and go with self-publishing. But let’s not place the agents and publishers in a position they don’t belong in. They wish to be a writer’s partner, not his/her master.

Believe the best of them. They are trying to make a living like you and me. They want what sells and they do go scouting for good works. Make yours good, and may luck go with ya.

Yeah, “Twilight” got published, but so did millions of better books. So many books, so little time.

(I sure hope this puts me on their good side :))

Should You like All of Your Characters?

Come on. I don’t know one who hasn’t been there. We come up with several likeable characters. And then it happens. They come around. One or two characters you would like to drop off a cliff.

I’m not really a published or experienced writer, but I do know that we don’t drop them off of a cliff. Even if I don’t like Matt or Valencia. Matt, he has motivations and reasons for why he is the way he is. Valencia is just holding a grudge to someone who has been dead for twenty years before book. Matt at least tries to do the right thing.

I know that novels can reflect real life, and it is tempting to make it so that we like all our characters. To be honest, I care for all my characters, even if I want to drop them off the highest cliff I can find.

To Outline or Not to Outline?

After four years, and two false starts to my main work-in-progress, I gave up and wrote out an outline. Now I know that there are some who say that outlining destroys the organic feel to the novel. I must politely disagree. Furthermore, for some authors, it is a necessity.

Are you writing a mystery? It has been advised that you plot backwards. An outline detailing who did it and why can help you hide your red herrings, clues, and plants more effectively.

In fantasy and science-fiction, an outline can be an addition further expounding the world-building process. Not to mention, you know which plants and animals your protagonist is more likely to run across.

In a romance, you can plot out the true-love, the fling, the betrayal, and so on.
Pretty much the only people I don’t think have a reason to outline their novels first, are the ones where the storylines flow better without one. As for me, I’m no pants-er, I have to have an outline.