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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Selling fiction in '13

   
Author Topic: Selling fiction in '13
LDWriter2
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Dean Wesley Smith has an interesting post on this subject. It's kinda long, deals with myths and how to sell etc..

And as usual for his posts the comments can be as interesting as the posts.


http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=8272

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MattLeo
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Interesting, but I wonder to what degree this might best be viewed as advice on how to become Dean Wesley Smith.

One thing I'll say about the agent route; I've looked at the submission counts and responses for agents that might handle my kind of work, and the success rate is typically something like one offer of representation for every two or three thousand queries. Perhaps that's not so bad considering that the rate of partial/full requests is typically 1 / 300 queries to 1 / 500. Still, the search for representation is sufficiently time consuming I suspect the advice to not let it interfere with your writing is sound.

From what I've seen of one book aspiring authors, a lot of them would do well to attempt a second book and maybe third book, because though inexperience they've painted themselves into a narrative corner on their first attempt. So I agree that people should move on rather than tweak their first novel endlessly.

What I question is given the long, long odds whether having a writing career as a goal makes sense at all. Maybe that should be something we view as "icing on the cake".

With no disrespect intended for Mr. Smith, if the choice were to have his particular career as a writer and doing something else, I'd probably do something else. He is marvelously prolific, and his status as the go-to guy for novelizations of anything from movies to tabletop RPGs speaks to his solid craftsmanship, but I don't know anybody who's ever bought a book *because* it was written by Dean Wesley Smith. I don't know anybody who's ever waited for the latest DWS book to come out, or who cares about any characters that DWS has created. Heck, I doubt I know anyone who's ever read a DWS book more than once.

I'm not saying DWS is a bad writer -- there's obviously great skill in the kind of writing he does. It's just that his advice seems to be oriented to become a proficient writer of throw-away stories.

Tolkien probably revised too much. Stephen King reportedly puts considerable effort into revision, and it doesn't seem to hurt his output. If I had a choice of any writer I could be like, it'd be C.S. Lewis, who wrote lovingly crafted books that people will love for generations to come.

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History
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Good advice.
Wish I could follow it more.

I revise frequently, often months after I felt a story was "done". However I find this useful, and believe the story improves with a refreshed perspective.

I concur with the importance of producing enough content to warrant attention, but believe all one's content should be the best one can make it.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[ December 08, 2012, 11:00 PM: Message edited by: History ]

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LDWriter2
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His advice doesn't just work for him, his wife does the same as do at least some other pro writers he knows.

As to the agent thing. He's not the only pro to say that or even semi-pro. He's full of stories of how agents have ripped off their clients. I believe its Laura Resnick who has sued one of her ex-agents because the guy refuses to send records of how well her books-through him-are doing. She's taken him to court and for some strange, unknown reason he won't send her the records. Other pro writers have found the same problem with their agents.


And contracts have become more complicated again it's not just Dean that says that.

As to who waits for his books. (Shoulder shrug). He sells so someone wants them. His Star Trek novels are great. But he also writes under various pen names. Some are listed on his blog. So he may have more fans than it looks like.

I keep forgetting but I want to download some of his Pokerboy stories. They sound interesting even if a bit adult.

Oh, he doesn't consider himself prolific. He writes a couple of hours a day or so. Certain pros write eight to ten hours a day...now those guys are prolific. But he also continually states that each writer is different and probably will follow a different path. Certain things like the five senses every two pages works for everyone but we all need to learn our own style and what works for us.

And Dr. Bob I too have problems with revising. A while back I decided that since revising stories even ten times wasn't helping I would restrict it to three revisions, four under special circumstances.

And Dean pushes us to do our best with each story. He believes that revising uses a different part of the brain, one influenced by an old english teacher(s) we had many years ago.

It's worked for him, his wife and a few other pros he has mentioned a time or three. Again though each writer is different.

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MAP
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LDWriter, a handful of prowriters or even a hundred is not a significant statistical analysis.

I think there is some useful advice in his post, but he is clearly biased, and really has no evidence to back up his choice for the road to greatest success.

I'm not saying his road is bad, but it isn't a sure thing and it's not for everyone. Like Mattleo said, some writers like C.S. Lewis and Tolkien have produced amazing classics by doing exactly what he says not to do. It really depends on each individual writer's personal goals.

I haven't read many of his post, just ones here and there that people have linked too, but from what I've read, he doesn't really back up any of his claims with solid evidence. And several writers getting scammed by agents isn't solid evidence.

There are many paths to this writing thing, and everyone just has to choose the path that is best for him/her. And that is my very amateur advice. [Smile]

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MartinV
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I think what Dean is trying to say in all his blog posts is that as a writer you need more confidence and not do everything an editor or agent say you should do. Those people are looking out for what it's in their best interest and that doesn't necessarily mean it's in your best interest.

All Dean is saying (at least that's what I'm getting) is don't follow some recipe, think for yourself, don't become someone's b***h and find your own path.

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extrinsic
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I don't have many nice things to say about Smith's opinions. I see a writer who took a detour down a questionable path. Other writers who've gone down that road were soon on the fall from ascendancy.

I guess a nice thing I can say about Smith is he found a niche that served him well.

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Owasm
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You have to take some of what Smith says with a grain of salt, but the publishing model has never served authors. Just look at all of the wannabe writers who get on the agent treadmill. They spend years trying to pitch one novel without moving on to their next project.

With an acceptance rate of less than one in a few thousand, it's pretty much a fool's errand, yet look at all of the 'pitch' contests out in blogdom. Writers aren't lemmings, but seeking out an agent for a first novel, seems to me to be lemming-like behavior. Instead of perfecting a pitch or a query letter, the writers could be writing an entirely new book.

If you want to get your work in print there are viable alternatives to the agent-seeking treadmill.

Smith talks about sending submissions to editors for SF/Fantasy. Others do too.

As I've said on Hatrack before, I don't have time to spend a year seeking an agent and three years to wonder if my single novel is going to be a success. Instead I published four original novels in 2012... although I still need to buck up the cash for editing.

I disagree with Smith on the marketing front. Novels are not mousetraps and better mousetraps aren't, on their own, going to bring in buyers. That's my real challenge for 2013... figuring out how to market books.

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Robert Nowall
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I suppose Mr. Smith does have his fans and devotees, but, in all honesty, I'm not sure I've ever read any fiction he's written.

I've been inclined towards "craft" and "extensive revision" myself---but of late I've been somewhat disillusioned with the notion of it. It's gotten like chewing used gum. I plan to do less nitpickety stuff---if and when.

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Foste
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Is it me or is Smith always banging on about the same things?
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LDWriter2
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First to answer Fosts.

Yes has been. Certain things like the five senses every two pages and Heinlein's Rules he's talked about for years but the thing with agents and such are fairly new--past couple of years.

He's gotten tired of seeing new writers taken advantage of. The number keeps growing. He states that all money flows to the writer not the other way around. And that the agent works for the writer not the other way around.
Agents are changing, there are still plenty of the old style but the newer ones and a few older ones who changed they way they do things are doing things differently and not better for the writer.

Personally I don't see what is so bad about what he says. He doesn't say you absolutely have to do it his way--even though he seems to imply it at times-but he does think it's the best way.

He says if you do go the usual route double check the contract--nothing wrong with that--make sure you get a copy of the book sells records and the checks come straight to you instead of to your agent. Again nothing wrong with that. A lot of lawyers say things like that for any type of contract.

As for proof, I don't know he's listed various polls, links to the Passive Guy blog. He also links to Joe Konrath who has experience with publishing contracts. Plus various others. The comments sections usually have people who disagree with him that he answers.

You can read all of his posts on "Slaying The Sacred Cows of Publishing". "Think like a Publisher".

I don't do everything he says, but he has experience--his, people he knows and through the workshops he puts on--intelligence and common sense to know something.

I've read OSC's books on writing--love to go to a bootcamp--, and a couple of others. David--the new guy at WotF--puts out Daily Kicks in the Pants and some of what he says agrees with Dean's observations on writing just in different words. Such as he says that the five senses are part of the setting.

But again you need to find what works for you.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:

Personally I don't see what is so bad about what he says. He doesn't say you absolutely have to do it his way--even though he seems to imply it at times-but he does think it's the best way.

Well, I always say be careful about the advice you give someone, because it might not be the same as the advice he hears.

I think the fault with DSW's advice is that he attacks the symptom (endless revision) and not the underlying problem (putting all your hopes in the first novel you manage to complete). The advice not to put all your eggs in one basket works for everyone; the advice not to revise much doesn't work for everyone.

Some of us deal heavily in irony, thematic twists and character quirks. It doesn't make us better writers necessarily, but it does make our work more labor-intensive. The stuff people will enjoy in our stories isn't there in the first pass, at least not enough of it. But on the other hand I've certainly seen writers tweak their first manuscript endlessly beyond the point where there was any reasonable hope of improvement.

It's "your miles may vary" again. The agent game is stacked against a novice writer, but I have a friend who found an agent in a couple of months who landed a three book deal a few months after that, another three book deal the following year, and is working on yet a third multi-book deal as we speak.

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extrinsic
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Revision strategies develop over time. Some writers overtreat; some writers undertreat; some writers find excuses for not revising at all. Some writers develop effective revision strategies.
How much is enough? For some writers revision is just adjusting mechanical style endlessly, maybe adjusting diction for clumsy word choices. Adjusting mechanical style won't treat an emotionally dead narrative. Treating lackluster voice, structural shortcomings, and limited audience appeal and accessibility requires practice. Lots of practice. In my view, no revision is wasted, no matter how much time and effort are expended on the process.

However, making the cognitive leaps necessary to develop workable revision strategies are a tall order.

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LDWriter2
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The revision thing does seem to work for a lot of writers. Of course not all. Personally I try to get all the good stuff, in during the first writing. And From my experience the less revisions the better. All of my most successful stories--including the one that sold another that was good enough to sell and a couple ones editors liked--all had less than three revisions. With the possible exception of two that had four. None of my 130 some stories that had between five and eleven revision ever got even close--with the exception of one story and maybe another. I can't remember for sure how many revisions that last one had.

Over time as we learn what the good stuff really is and practice them, they start to come out automatically during the first writing.

Maybe I should add that he doesn't consider a rewrite as a revision because you're starting from scratch. And going over to check for grammar mistakes, typos, extra words in sentences because you forgot to delete something, etc. isn't revisioning.

Many times I rewrite stuff when I revise-delete a line or paragraph and rewrite the whole thing. Sometimes I add something I forgot to put in the first. Adding whole new words.

And yeah people are still finding good agents, its just that they seem to be fewer. I wonder though if your friend or the agent gets the money from the book sells.

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Jeff Ambrose
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Hi. It's been a while since I've posted, but I've been lurking.

Here's the thing with DWS's opinions about rewriting. Granted, he probably hasn't done the best job in the world writing ONE post in which he says everything...but if you follow his blog and pay attention to what he says about rewriting (which sometimes comes up in the oddest places), you can pretty much summarize it to the following points (in no particular order).

* Writers are the worst judges of their own stories.

* Beginning writers don't have the tools to rewrite.

* Rewriting is a skill that requires a knowledge of story on a deep level.

* Writers who are taker-outers revise differently from writers who are putter-inners. Do you know what kind of writer you are?

* All writers are different. Some rewrite, others don't. Don't make rewriting a "rule" you have to follow.

* The only way to learn how to rewrite is by writing a lot. NOT BY REWRITING. The more original writing you do, the more you understand story on a deep level ... and that's the key to revising.

* You must rewrite in the creative voice, not the critical voice.

* The biggest problem of rewriting is that you can take out your voice from the story, and it's your voice that pulls people into the story. So whatever you do, don't POLISH your prose. Fix the typos. Clean up the sentences that don't make sense. But don't POLISH.

* Rewriting is different from fixing typos. Fix typos. Proofread your stories, or have someone else do it. Don't send out an sloppy MS.

***********

Everyone needs has to follow their own way. I take exception to what extrinsic said about writers who follow Dean's advice "fall from ascendancy." That's spoken from ignorance.

The fact is, my writing has improved vastly once I stopped rewriting. Why? Because I stopped worrying about writing the "perfect" story and just writing the "best" story I could write at the time. By telling more stories, I began to understand story on a deep level, encountering problems I needed to work through, and so forth. In ten years of following the "myths" (2000-2009) I wrote about 500,000 words -- most of which was unfinished fiction. Back then, I thought Dean was a nutjob and his advice was just plain silly. But hey, what do I know? Here's a guy who's made a living in the business, and I have the audacity to challenge him? It's obvious my own ways aren't working. So in May 2010, I decided to give Dean's methods a shot, and immediately I started getting personalized rejections. I've written 1.2 million words since then, have finished dozens and dozens of stories and novels, have learned more about writing than I ever did before, and have hopes that if I keep this way, I'll reach my dreams, and have enjoyed every minute of it. So much fun!

And just to be clear -- I DO rewrite. NOW. After 1,200,000 words. I don't rewrite a lot, but I'll tell you, Dean is correct about knowing story on a deep level. The more you write, the more you read, the more you learn. And the more you understand story on a deep level, the better able you are to see the problems in your own work.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff Ambrose:
Everyone needs has to follow their own way. I take exception to what extrinsic said about writers who follow Dean's advice "fall from ascendancy." That's spoken from ignorance.

quote:
extrinsic wrote:
I see a writer who took a detour down a questionable path. Other writers who've gone down that road were soon on the fall from ascendancy.

Smith took a detour in his writing career: rewriting others' creative visions, backsliding on developing his own creative visions, and badmouthing the publishing culture that has supported him. The latter one, that's a potentially fatal step that has ended writers' careers. This is what I mean, not that following Smith's advices necessarily causes a fall.

"That's spoken from ignorance." The same could be said about any opinion not one's own. Such comments are uncalled-for personal attacks.

[ December 10, 2012, 09:21 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Foste
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@extrinsic

And that's my main beef with the man.

Whenever Smith brings up his bad experiences with agents, or on the other hand, his time his in the business his advice is anecdotal. Whenever someone calls him out on it he is quick to backpedal and say that he worked with wonderful agents in the past.

Case in point:

http://jimhines.livejournal.com/605819.html#comments

(scroll down to find DWS's post).

Mind you, this comes from the man who calls some writers suckers and stupid.

Moreover, he tends to become somewhat testy and engage in ad hominem when he is being criticized. This happened when he was talking about percentages with Courtney Milan.

http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2011/06/03/unpacking-assumptions-about-percentages/

I am really not against self/indie/e publishing. Nor do I want to see the traditional system burst up in effing flames. My problem is the way Dean chose to relay his message. It's not about if you "can" self publish. That's not the issue. It's whether or not it suits you individually and if you are well equipped to deal with the many aspects of self publishing. The same goes for going with the agent route.

It seems to me that people are too keen on taking sides and linking to posts which supports their rhetoric instead of thinking things through for themselves.

It's about making a business/career decision. Not winning an argument.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Foste:
Mind you, this comes from the man who calls some writers suckers and stupid.

I'm not too enamored of a writer offering advice to writers who mocks writers either.

His anecdote about a writer friend suing an agent for royalty record disclosure and not getting it is a bit off too. Friend-Of-A-Friend anecdotes are a mainstay of urban legends like chicken-fried rat. If chicken-fried rat ever actually happened is open to question. Using an urban legend, like agents are money-grubbing villians, to support a claim relies on believing agent corruption is more widespread than it actually is.

I understand the effort to protect the writer friend's privacy, but a FOAF signals a potential misrepresentation and calls for a closer look. A lawsuit requires document disclosure to meet discovery requests. Otherwise, sanctions and summary judgments against the withholding party result. The discovery process would have disclosed the documents the writer sought or resulted in an in-kind recovery of damages.

A savvy writer will insist upon an audit clause with an agent. An agent will with a publisher.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
"That's spoken from ignorance." The same could be said about any opinion not one's own. Such comments are uncalled-for personal attacks.

I agree. Please don't presume to attribute ignorance to others in this forum. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Thank you.

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MAP
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I completely agree with Foste.

I think it is interesting that Dean Wesely Smith is such an advocator of a pathway that he himself did not take. I don't think he would be enjoying the same level of success if he hadn't started out the traditional route. That says a lot to me.

I think his advice on being educated is great, and I also think that self-publishing is a great as a way to get off the "agent querying treadmill" like Owasm mentioned above if that path isn't working for you. It also gives you leverage so that you don't have to take crappy deals some agents and publishers might offer you. You can walk away and still get your book out there. That is awesome. Having a choice is awesome.

But both routes, traditional and self-publishing, are both a ton of work and both involve a lot of luck to really become a full-time this-is-the-only-way-I-earn-a-living writer. There are no short cuts and no guarentees, which is what DWS seems to be promising.

Most of his very obviously biased advice is only useful to some writers who work the same way that he does, so it isn't for everyone. I think he would be so much more helpful to all writers if he was objective.

But if his advice works for you, more power to you. I just get annoyed by those who take his word as the gospel truth (I'm not seeing that here, BTW, but I've seen it).

I like what Courtney Mulan said in the comments of the blog Foste linked us to, that he really is just "exchanging one set of myths for another" by speaking in absolutes.

The real truth is get educated, think for yourself, which DWS seems to be saying, but only after he has gone on and on about how his way is the best way and you're an idiot to do anything different.

He's a writer. He should know the power of words, and how his wording is not encouraging writers to think for themselves, no matter how many times he says it.

[ December 10, 2012, 09:06 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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