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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Good stuff on epublishing and writing

   
Author Topic: Good stuff on epublishing and writing
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This article posted on SFWA's Writer Beware blog is definitely worth reading, and you might want to check out the link about writing scams in the introduction paragraph as well.
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Pyre Dynasty
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Thanks I was going to share this too.

I'm personally weary of the vending machine/youtube model a lot of writers have adopted where they are just throwing everything out there hoping something will stick. They are making their mistakes in public instead of to their writer's groups and alpha/beta readers.

This also goes back to Amazon's model of a million people selling a hundred books each instead of a thousand people selling a million books each.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, in my younger days I turned out a new story every couple of weeks---but they were bad. (I realized this only in retrospect.) Then I started taking more care and more time...but now it's more like two or three stories a year.

I'd like to put more out...there's got to be some kind of happy medium between taking care and getting them out there...

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History
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I'll play Devil's Advocate.

The idea that "sucess" as a writer = traditional publishing is belied by the amount of crap traditionally published. Primarily, "success" to a traditional publisher = sales, not quality writing.

Take for example, the current Shades of Grey pheomenom. The quality of the writing and structure of the narrative is, at least in my opinion, poor. Yet, it is a "success" for both the author and her publisher with sales of over 31 million and a movie begun by the producers of The Social Network.

What this similarly teaches me is "You can't account for taste."

Readers differ in what they enjoy. What some find terrible, boring, and disgusting, others find great, exiting,and titillating. Some of my favorites fantasy novels and collections [e.g. James Stoddard's The High House, Robert Don Hughes The Prophet of Lamath, and many of the works of Ballantine Books Adult Fantasy Series ed. by Lin Carter] remain out of print--not because they are lacking in quality (they're not, they're great), but because traditional publishers do not believe they will sell, or sell sufficiently, to today's reading public. Perhaps not. Yet, I find I return to them more and more to find the types of stories I enjoy reading that are absent among today's traditionally published works.

What motivates many authors is to write what traditional publishers are buying in their quest to determine what is selling. I.e. What is good = what sells.

"I do not hold with that" (to quote Joss Whedon's Malcolm Reynolds--Serenity, Universal Pictures, 2005).

Personally, I find I am among the would-be author's who, in sympatico with JRR Tolkien and his fellow Inkings, prefer to write the kind of stories I wish to read and are not, or rarely, availble through traditional publishing today. If not avaialble through traditional publishers (where passage through the gate is determined by "what will sell to multitudes") where am I to find such stores, or share them?

I prefer to read stories that appeal to me.

The internet and e-publishing permits this. Works that might never be seen are now available, and it is the consumer not the publisher that determines their "success." The minority need not consume only what the majority is force fed. New and long out of print works are now available to enjoy to satisfy a variety of interests ,

I do agree with Ms Yudkin (in her article) that every author requires a "...foundation for becoming an ever-better storyteller and wordsmith" and authors require "feedback from teachers, mentors and editors" and "with the absence of any gatekeepers and the lack of respect for quality in their publishing model, readers and writers everywhere stand to suffer." But, I no longer believe that traditional publishers are such gatekeepers. Sales, not quality, is their primary concern. I do not fault them for this. They are businesses with employees and their families requiring salaries, pensions, health care, etc.

What benefits traditional publishers do offer is access to professional editors, proofreaders, cover artists, and, more importantly, established marketing and distribution. However, I've read in a number of author's blogs how these are inconsistenly alotted among a traditonal publisher's cadre of authors. With multiple titles appearing in one month, a couple may be highlighted and receive the majority of the publisher's attention (and funds) while the remainder will languish. The publishers, no different from self-publishing authors, are tossing these other works out as darts, wasting little effort or expense, hoping that by luck one may strike the target (sales!) while they spend their resources promoting the success of an established author regardless of the quality of his/her new work.

Thus, I find crap everywhere.

And I've come to question the accepted teaching that writers require traditional publishers to prove their work is professional and their writing is of quality.

The remainder of Ms Yudkin's argument I agree with. It takes time and experience for a writer to learn to be a good communicator, to coherently (and entertainingly) bring the world and ideas of his/her imagining to the reader. For most: To be a writer one must write. A lot. (Something, as yet, I cannot do [Frown] )

Today, through the internet, writers workshops like Hatrack are providing much of what was once solely the purvue of traditional publishers and their editors. Yet, am I wrong in perceiving that such workshops as this one possess greater objectivity in assessing the excellence of a work based on its own merit (the quality of writing and the narrative structure, and the enjoyment of the tale) than on whether or not it will sell to multitudes?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
(Vacation Day 1 and, from the cooling ashes, slowly getting the creative writing fire stoked) [Smile]

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Pyre Dynasty
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The 50 shades thing was self published, (actually fan fiction before few noun changes) and it hit the vending machine/youtube jackpot before it was picked up by a publisher. (Just some history.)

I don't think her message is that self e-publishing is inherently bad or that traditional (if that word means anything in the context) publishing is the end all beat all. She even makes the point that print e-publishers have put more work into their stories because of the high cost of creation. The point is that people are publishing their first drafts. They aren't putting the work in to improve their writing before they are publishing. A good line I heard once is that publishing used to be a job, now it's a button.

Yes publishers come out with crap, and there is no accounting for taste. The proliferation of books old and new is wonderful, and it's never been easier to find good stuff that you want. Niche stuff. But there is also a lot more crap to wade through because people aren't working on their writing they are just hitting publish on everything they produce without even going over it once.

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Owasm
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I think her message was exactly that e-publishing is inherently bad and, in a condescending tone, promoted traditional publishing as the way any true writer needs to go.

That said, there's a lot of stories on Kindle that I don't like and plenty of books that could use professional editing (mine included), but the exact same thing can be said for traditional books except, perhaps, they are more grammatically superior.

I can certainly improve my writing and that's why I'm here at Hatrack, but I'm not going to pound around on the internet forums forever waiting for a sainted agent to pick up my work. I'm with Dr. Bob, the stuff I like to write is not what the agents or editors are interested in. I'm going to write and publish what I like and if I sell ten books a month doing so, then I'll count it a personal success.

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rcmann
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There's no trustworthy filter.

Forget providing something you know you will like, you can't even trust most of the established publishers now to properly proof-edit their print books. And I see wading through the ebook pile as being similar to sorting through the fan fiction snowstorm, with the difference that the ebooks are frequently not free.


It's sad to say, and many won't agree with me, but I am not sure that the percentage of badly written ebooks is really that much higher than the percentage of badly written paper books. It just looks that way because there are so many more of them and they are coming out so fast. Although I grant that the cover art on the print books is often higher quality.

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extrinsic
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Publishers and editors are as frail as writers.

I wonder if separating personal sentiments out of the publishing equation is possible. I'm unpublished. The culture is to blame. The failing lies outside my control. Though the failing inherently lies within.

Publishing is plain and simple about offering for public consumption. Novels that are published and succeed have fewer shortcomings than strengths. Number one on both counts is decorum: suiting one's words and subject matter to each other, to the occasion, and the audience.

Yudkin addresses how digital publishing's instant gratification and convenience have diluted decorum's central essentialness: appealing to an audience. If a writer writes for the self as the audience of one, a narrative is more or less flawless, regardless of what decorum state its accessibility, voice, craft, and style are in. Appealing to a larger audience requires reworking an inspiration into an audience-niche-spanning, audience-niche-accessible, audience-comfort-zone-niche suiting narrative.

Publishers and editors are as in the dark as writers about what sufficiently meets those decorum expectations; however, the industry has a finger on the marketplace pulse. Publisher hunches one work might perform satisfactorily are based on past successes. Hunches or certainties another work might not perform sufficiently to justify publishing costs are based on past failures and from reviewing an abundance of works with more easily-identifiable shortcomings than less-identifiable strengths.

Whether digital or traditional publishing, the cream rises to the top. With forty thousand novels and roughly double that number of creative nonfiction traditionally published annually, and untold numbers published digitally, I don't have time to read every one. Nor do I follow the hype as willing lamb to the high pasture. I base my reading selection on word-of-mouth buzz.

I was recently disappointed by several novels making the water cooler rounds. Turned out few of the consumers hyping the products had actually read the works. The buzz was about the overnight performance success of the works, filthy lucre, and trying to be cool scouts ahead of the cool-culture curve, not about the works' appeal. They failed me, the consumers and the writers, and consequently, lost me as a consumer.

[ July 29, 2012, 01:14 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyre Dynasty:
...people aren't working on their writing they are just hitting publish on everything they produce without even going over it once.

Isn't that what a lot of people do when they post comments on the internet? Maybe it has turned into a nasty habit--just dash it off and get it out there, without thinking about what you've just written.

My hope is that as people learn to be more circumspect about their comments, wherever they may post them, they will learn to be more circumspect about other things they write and epublish.

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MartinV
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quote:
I think her message was exactly that e-publishing is inherently bad and, in a condescending tone, promoted traditional publishing as the way any true writer needs to go.
I had a similar thought but couldn't find the right words. Nice going, Owasm.

Yes, being sloppy is a bad choice if you're putting your text out there for people to read. That goes for any medium.

The problem is most people who give their argument can't relay the intended information without infusing them with their own scripture. Agents and publishers will always speak on their behalf, even if what they have to say does not need to include their personal opinion.

If Marcia wanted to write about putting effort into proofing your text, she should do that. Instead, she red-flagged self-publishing in general, again jabbing into that notorious disputed topic. Not every self-publisher is trying to reach that "Get Rich" promised land. Some of us are willing to work hard for our success; it's just that we like to discover our style on our own, without someone telling us how to develop our sentences.

She promotes going to workshops to get experience and knowledge. I see workshops as a way to learn how to write exactly like the tutor. Not something I'm interested in.

That article has good intentions but it did not convince me to change my plans.

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rcmann
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To me, the biggest weakness to self publishing is one that is now shared by traditional publishing. At least in regards to beginning writers. It's almost impossible to find good feedback from professionals to help you get off the ground. Places like this are a godsend, but the plain fact is, many of us haven't been traditionally published yet. All we can do is offer our opinions as readers. That's not really enough. Professional feedback is crucial. But where can you get it?

Please don't say 'hire an editor'. I can't afford that.

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extrinsic
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My clients cannot afford to not have an editor. Their reputations and livelihood depend on my services.

Outside of hiring an editor, several venues are available for professional feedback access at somewhat less costs. Manuscript marts are features of writing conferences. Authors, editors, and agents evaluate book manuscripts in advance and have brief in-person developmental editing meetings with their writers.

Writing retreats and conferences are also hosted by accomplished authors, and sometimes guest editors and agents as well. They are mostly writing workshops in residence, like at a hotel conference center, vacation resort off season, or university writing program, the latter for enrolled students or public attendance at some events but not participation; places where lodging and board are available to out of town participants. Due to travel and lodging expenses, they tend to be pricey. Some offer scholarhips for financially challenged candidates.

Local writing workshops don't often have heavy hitters. Enlightened and dynamic ones occasionally bring in guest professionals. I personally feel writing workshops are best taken in short spans and should be changed periodically. More than a few months and they start to recycle worn out ideas and commentary. Some writers' progress plateaus and stays there. Some regress. A few advance and it's time to move on.

Otherwise, going the poet's journey alone is a matter of blunt assessment, dedicated rhetoric study, and writing practice. My most productive writing gains come from studying published works, their methods, voices, craft, and themes, and their cultural and marketplace performance and their appeals and accesibility for audiences. But I've gone the routes and continue to follow the routes outlined above.

Someday, I'll host a writing retreat at a primitive beach resort. I've already got several guest host authors, editors, and agents penciled in for participation.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
My clients cannot afford to not have an editor. Their reputations and livelihood depend on my services.

Outside of hiring an editor, several venues are available for professional feedback access at somewhat less costs. Manuscript marts are features of writing conferences. Authors, editors, and agents evaluate book manuscripts in advance and have brief in-person developmental editing meetings with their writers.

Writing retreats and conferences are also hosted by accomplished authors, and sometimes guest editors and agents as well. They are mostly writing workshops in residence, like at a hotel conference center, vacation resort off season, or university writing program, the latter for enrolled students or public attendance at some events but not participation; places where lodging and board are available to out of town participants. Due to travel and lodging expenses, they tend to be pricey. Some offer scholarhips for financially challenged candidates.

Local writing workshops don't often have heavy hitters. Enlightened and dynamic ones occasionally bring in guest professionals. I personally feel writing workshops are best taken in short spans and should be changed periodically. More than a few months and they start to recycle worn out ideas and commentary. Some writers' progress plateaus and stays there. Some regress. A few advance and it's time to move on.

Otherwise, going the poet's journey alone is a matter of blunt assessment, dedicated rhetoric study, and writing practice. My most productive writing gains come from studying published works, their methods, voices, craft, and themes, and their cultural and marketplace performance and their appeals and accesibility for audiences. But I've gone the routes and continue to follow the routes outlined above.

Someday, I'll host a writing retreat at a primitive beach resort. I've already got several guest host authors, editors, and agents penciled in for participation.

And for people like myself? Broke folks. Or people who live in smaller metro areas, sometimes (gasp) even rural areas, where such enticing venues for social self-actualization can only be the stuff of misty-eyed dreams?

Alas. It seems from the advice promulgated that only those whose feet are firmly sunk into the mud of the aristocracy are fit to be admitted to the rarefied fellowship of literary competence.

Drat.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
And for people like myself? Broke folks. Or people who live in smaller metro areas, sometimes (gasp) even rural areas, where such enticing venues for social self-actualization can only be the stuff of misty-eyed dreams?

Alas. It seems from the advice promulgated that only those whose feet are firmly sunk into the mud of the aristocracy are fit to be admitted to the rarefied fellowship of literary competence.

Drat.

I've been there, rural off the beaten track, broke, in hock up to my eyebrows, am there, have little hope or expectation I can't get there, onto the literary mainstream, without dedicated self-determination, compromise, and sacrifice.

Start something. A workshop. A retreat. A grassroots movement. Start a program dedicated to similarly situated writers. Online. In person. Whatever. Join something or at least ask about what's going on at writer communities. Join the conversation. Open a line of communication with writers, agents, editors. Correspond. Nothing builds skills, confidence, competence, self-esteem, and public esteem like giving of yourself to others, and it is of no small consequence what can be learned from sharing.

[ August 01, 2012, 02:21 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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Does Hatrack count?
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extrinsic
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Yes. Hatrack counts. Expanding your horizons into professional realms will build your writing community. Write personal letters to authors, editors, publishers, agents. Ask for guidance, tips, advice, insights, opinions. The etiquette protocol for effective introductory correspondence involves the register protégé addressing mentor, not gushing fan.

Basic introduction letter template

Pleasantries
Encomium
Request for guidance
Personal reason for request
Gratitude
Personal salutation

Do not ask for reading your work, ever. Wait for requests to come unprompted. Be agreeable. Be approving. No negativity, no emotionally or politically charged commentary. Try, try again. Some will respond. Some won't. Take a shot in the dark. There's nothing to lose, everything to gain.

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rcmann
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Ur... I appreciate the intro into basic business correspondence, but I have been in the workforce for a few decades now. Or rather, I was until I retired. Thanks for the thought however.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Does Hatrack count?

I'd like to think it does.
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Robert Nowall
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Of course Hatrack counts---look where it says "Posts."
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rcmann
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[Smile]
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mayflower988
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Yes. Hatrack counts. Expanding your horizons into professional realms will build your writing community. Write personal letters to authors, editors, publishers, agents. Ask for guidance, tips, advice, insights, opinions. The etiquette protocol for effective introductory correspondence involves the register protégé addressing mentor, not gushing fan.

Basic introduction letter template

Pleasantries
Encomium
Request for guidance
Personal reason for request
Gratitude
Personal salutation

Do not ask for reading your work, ever. Wait for requests to come unprompted. Be agreeable. Be approving. No negativity, no emotionally or politically charged commentary. Try, try again. Some will respond. Some won't. Take a shot in the dark. There's nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Okay, rcmann and others may be experienced, but I am not. I'm about as green as they come. So, for one thing, I appreciate the basic letter template (although I had to look up "encomium") and for another, how do you give the "personal reason for request"? Is it appropriate to say "I've just finished my first novel"? To me, that sounds like a not-so-subtle hint: Please read! Although I am still in the process of writing my first novel, so I guess it would be a while before I can write this letter. I don't think I want to ask for advice on getting published before I've even finished my novel.

I've just realized, I may be totally off as to the subject of this thread. I may have sort of skimmed the previous comments. (My apologies. I admit my guilt.) But I'm posting this on the chance that I understood and remembered long enough to write this. :)

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Of course Hatrack counts---look where it says "Posts."

[Roll Eyes]


mayflower988, one thing extrinsic didn't mention, that I think would be good to do, is to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) if you are writing to someone via regular mail. Make it as easy as possible for them to respond to you.

For what it's worth, I read Steven Pinker's book, THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT, and emailed him with some questions I had about what he said. He emailed me back and thanked me. (And I have since done that with other authors whose books I've read, also receiving very nice responses.) I should mention that the books in question were nonfiction. I know so many fiction writers in other ways, that I can't say how well they might respond to an email or letter from a stranger. It can't hurt to try, though, as long as you follow extrinsic's instructions.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Okay, rcmann and others may be experienced, but I am not. I'm about as green as they come. So, for one thing, I appreciate the basic letter template (although I had to look up "encomium") and for another, how do you give the "personal reason for request"? Is it appropriate to say "I've just finished my first novel"? To me, that sounds like a not-so-subtle hint: Please read! Although I am still in the process of writing my first novel, so I guess it would be a while before I can write this letter. I don't think I want to ask for advice on getting published before I've even finished my novel.

I've just realized, I may be totally off as to the subject of this thread. I may have sort of skimmed the previous comments. (My apologies. I admit my guilt.) But I'm posting this on the chance that I understood and remembered long enough to write this. [Smile]

Consider asking about an area you find difficult but you admire the way an author manages. Like voice, craft, plot, thoughts, or "emotional beats," pacing. Maybe a personal area, like rejection or even success, which comes with complications too. Reason for asking derives from the questions asked. You make using emotional beats look simple but they're so effective. Any advice would be appreciated

Agents are a little tougher for personal topics, easier for professional topics. Investigate books they represent; ask questions about them. Ask insightful questions about their preferred subject areas or areas they're looking for but not getting. Ask them about their take on the culture and marketplace. Maybe a publisher is bemoaning a lack of a particular category product on the market and an agent is in the know. Maybe an agent knows a particular category is oversaturated and the marketplace hasn't gotten around to saying so publicly.

Professionals like to talk shop. A struggling writer might not enjoy shop talk as much. So the questions might not be immediately beneficial, but getting into the professional considerations is a strong reason for asking questions and for advice.

About the same as goes for agents goes for editors and publishers. Maybe editors for common shortcomings they work with struggling writers to develop stronger application. Reason being to work on them or avoid them.

[ August 02, 2012, 11:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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