26 June 2007

REPOST 2/4/2007 It's who you know...but HOW?


Okay, read this first, so you know where I'm starting from. Got it?

It's not that I think this guy is completely off base. I'll start off by saying that. He's not a moron. Gee, what a compliment, some people are thinking. But, it really is. If I'm commenting on someone's blog, and I start off by saying that, you know that I do respect this person enough to ADD to what was said instead of tearing it completely apart. And, that's what I hope to do here.

As I said, I don't think Paul Genesse is a completely off base in what he says. For instance, I personally tell people writing FICTION that has a decent audience to go with a royalty-paying publisher, whether it's in NY or indie/e, rather than self-publishing or subsidy/vanity publishing it. There is no reason to go the self/subsidy/vanity route with something that is well-written and has an audience. Now, family histories and poetry books and non-fiction of many types are another matter, but that's another post...one I did years ago.

No one has managed to successfully argue this point so far. If the author is trying to scream artistic freedom, I usually find he/she either doesn't want to accept editorial input that would make the book stronger...or he/she is writing something that DOESN'T actually have an audience, because it contains an eek factor the author won't change in the name of artistic expression, even when it breaks LAWS. None of the above is going to win you brownie points with editors, at any publisher I can name.

I should note that he does make his first major error at about this point. Self publishing and subsidy/vanity are NOT the same thing. He seems to be mixing the apples and oranges here, but I suspect he doesn't have a lot of personal experience in the matter. I've written articles on the difference, so I won't repeat them here. Please, do keep in mind that there IS a difference.

He is right that self/subsidy/vanity publishing fiction CAN be the kiss of death.

Now, I've self-published a children's book and a poetry book, so don't think I'm anti-* (name your poison) here. There are some fabulous books put out in these realms. There are also some real stinkers, but here's what people tend not to project onto that statement: there are good books and stinkers everywhere, including indie/e and NY.

That said, let me be blunt and back up what Paul Genesse stated. Mrs. Giggles, for all that I don't like her tone, makes a good point about self/subsidy/vanity and the yearly polling of 80 agents agrees with it. Self/subsidy/vanity is NOT something you want to list as a publishing credit, UNLESS you're one of the one in a million that wins the publishing lottery and makes a mint doing it. They don't consider it a publishing credit, otherwise. Why? Because being with a royalty-paying publisher, even indie/e, means that "someone besides your mother thinks you can write." (QUOTING Mrs. Giggles here...) Paul isn't kidding. ANYONE can self/subsidy/vanity publish. It doesn't mean you can write, though I hope you can; it means you have enough money, time or other resources to get a book out there for sale.

He's also right that it's nearly impossible to get WIDESPREAD distribution of a self/subsidy/vanity book in the major chain stores. Notice that I qualified this further than he did. It's not impossible. It's part of the publishing lottery, if you can manage it. It's also not that hard to get copies of one in your local chain store or independent book stores. It's getting them carried widely that is the difficulty.

Other things that you'll hear about this are... It's harder to get them reviewed, which is true, unless you're hitting up a local review source or you have an established relationship with a reviewer or review site. It's unlikely that you'll sell enough to match a bestseller in NY, which is true.... Basically, there is no sense in saying any of this CANNOT be done, because it's BEEN done before, but it's not easy to achieve it.

I don't necessarily think that the process is as painful as Mr. Genesse makes it out to be, but then again...tolerance to pain is one of those things that is not universal, so I'll pass on saying that the process can be fairly smooth and painless. Maybe it only seems like it to some people. I won't argue that one.

I do agree with him that it takes dedication. Not everyone is born a good writer. Not everyone has the solid background in grammar/spelling/vocabulary/etc. and storytelling that it takes to ultimately make a great author of you. Mr. Genesse makes the leap of faith that you're already a good writer with solid prose, at one point in his blog, which he thankfully reverses a little later. That's a leap you cannot make and do a service to someone. This is why so many people don't accept edits.

One time he really hammers it, IMO, is when he says that if your writing isn't good enough, you simply will not get published. (Not that I agree with that, or we wouldn't have stinkers out there for sale, but I'd like to agree that's true.)

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Even if you're studying the NYT Bestsellers, you CANNOT assume you can do what they do and get away with it. It's a newbie mistake. I made it, until I got to my first editor. A lot of us do. There are rules that are absolute and those that you can bend or break skillfully. But, I've written about this, too.

For those authors who don't come in with a perfect prose, with stunning characters, with self-editing skills... For those authors who don't come IN knowing the rules of the road, who don't know how to construct blurbs, cover letters, query letters, synopses, marketing plans... It's a CAREER. You should be investing as much or more in it as any other professional does in learning the nuts and bolts of his/her career. That includes craft AND submitting.

One of the major errors that he makes in his blog entry is the assumption that the only way to know people is to meet them face-to-face.

He talks about going to a ton of conventions, as if everyone has that sort of money and freedom. It's not possible for many of us. I'm the mother of 3 children and work part time. I'm not independently wealthy. If I make it to two conventions per year, it's a good year for me.

That doesn't mean I don't know people. In fact, despite the fact that he knows what an e-zine is, it seems that Paul Genesse spends a lot of time disregarding the internet as a writer's medium. It's not just our medium for meeting readers. It's our medium for meeting editors, publishers and agents.

Most of the agents, editors and even publishers I know, I know from online. I've never met some of them, in person, even some that I've known for 5 years. That doesn't mean I don't know their names and they don't know mine. I got invited to Deidre Knight's private party in her suite at RT2006 BY VIRTUE OF knowing her online for a couple of years. I got invited to submit to certain publishers and lines by virtue of my online name alone.

So, do you have to know people? Sure, but you don't have to know them face-to-face. It is possible to build a name for yourself online and "meet" people that way.

It's not just me. What about the authors taken to NY from indie/e who were "discovered" online. Mary Janice Davidson is one that comes immediately to mind. She didn't seek out her NY editor. Cindy Hwang sought her out, based on her online presence and books that Cindy bought to read of MJD's.

And it's not just editors and agents you meet online. He goes on and on about the authors you meet at conventions. I've been to RT, for pities sake, and I still maintain that I've met more authors ONLINE than I met there. And, not just slouches and wanna-bes. I'm meeting NYT Bestsellers in every genre I write online. The best part is, they aren't swamped like they are at conventions and signings. Online, they have more time to talk.

I DO agree completely that writing is a passion. While we all dream of the bestseller list and vaults of money, that is the lottery winner and few of us will ever attain it. I resemble his outline of a writer very closely; I write because I have to for my sanity and would continue to write, even if I couldn't sell again...ever.


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