This is a blog post about what a writer learned from spending time on authonomy.com. I am posting it because I think it offers insights into why people give some of the kinds of feedback they give here on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum.
Hmmm. Well its a good thought, but I have to say, with all respect and affection that I don't think most of the stuff mentioned in the blog thingy bear much on most Hatrack discussions.
A lot of it is really basic stuff. Proof read and edit your manuscripts. Don't use freaky fonts. I dont think anyone has ever disputed nor misunderstood that proper spelling and (with accasional exceptions especially in dialogue) grammar and punctuation are things that should be followed.
As far as the waking up thing...well sure, we've established a lot of editors don't care for it. I don't care much for non-genre stories or movies either, but every now and then I see/read one I wind up loving anyway. So what of it? The person even says one of the "waking up" openings she saw worked...for her...again...I know I say this a lot but it seems to just boil down to taste. If I get a story in my head that wants to start it that way, I'm going to follow my muses, because my muses are very scary and persuasive. Some of them even have tentacles.
The genre thing...well it seems to be specifically refering to novel queries, which isn't my area of expertise. I will just mention that as far as short fiction, "Beneath Ceaseless Skies", now a full blown, SFWA approved professional publication defines its content as Literary Adventure Fantasy (thats three, three, three genres in one!) and that we get...what...at least 4-6 threads a year in Open Discussions with people trying to figure out the definition of "literary fiction?"
Lastly...the bits that really interested me and the only ones that I, personally, feel relate much to various Hatrackian goings on.
quote:When commenters mention rules of writing, such as using standard punctuation or capitalization, or making the story actually make sense,
Ok, as I've mentioned before, a hefty portion of the short fiction I've read since I started writing seriously has, at least for me, fallen into the realm of not actually making sense. Fantasy Magazine and Strange Horizons in particular seem to be almost devoted to stories that make little sense or that otherwise fall very much into the "High Art" "literary" or whatever other names you want to give it type area that this person has issues with. Therefore, again, I have to chalk it up mostly to taste.
quote:Unless you're James Joyce, don't write like this. And I can pretty much guarantee you're not James Joyce.
Here we get to it. While I'm sure its probably not meant that way this comes across, to me at least, as rather arrogant and condescending and nearly completely encapsulates many of the issues I have with the mood/tone/nature of some Hatrack feedback.
How exactly do you know who I am or am not, or what I may or may not be capable of regardless of my level of experience (feel free to substitute those mys and Is for your own)? This echoes the so often heard "well, professional writers can get away with it." Why? What magical switch flips that gives them the ability to "break the rules the right way?" What if its a skill or talent inherent to them that they had from the begining of their writing? I mean, Mozart wrote symphonies at what, 14? Greg Lake wrote "Lucky Man" when he was like 12. Being new at something doesn't mean you may not have a good understanding of it or a natural talent with it or some aspects of it. Likewise, not yet being a bestselling author doesn't mean your new at it. So hearing essentially "You shouldn't write that, only pros are able to write that" or words to that effect is rather tiresome.
Likewise, "don't write like this" in general is the boil-down point that I so dislike that lies at the center of many comments I have issues with. Along with the not-any-better "Oh of course, you can write whatever you want. But, don't expect to get published if you write that, or don't write this."
Comments that involve basically telling a person they need to just write a totally different story, or write in a totally different style are not, to me, constructive criticism. That goes regardless of whether one is seeking publication or not, because there is a market of one degree or other out there for just about everything...and even the "mainstream" of our chosen genres incorporates many story types and styles.
For me, "don't write like this" whether intentional or unintentional, clear or veiled, is not generally something ANYONE should be saying to ANYONE.
One thing I did get from the blog thingy...if formatting and basic spelling are really such big issues in slush piles, I think all us Hatrack folks are probably already a step ahead of the pack, cause I don't think theres a single one of us that doesn't understand and follow those basic guidlines.
quote:Here we get to it. While I'm sure its probably not meant that way this comes across, to me at least, as rather arrogant and condescending and nearly completely encapsulates many of the issues I have with the mood/tone/nature of some Hatrack feedback.
Merlion-Emrys, every time you make accusations like this, I find myself trying not to take them personally. If you find Hatrack feedback this offensive to you, you are wasting your time and your breath trying to change it into something else.
Please, if the workshop forum I am running and the way I am running it bothers you this much, find somewhere else to get feedback that is more conducive to your philosophy of writing.
Hmmm...so the "some" has no meaning? It has to be all one or the other? I must either love it all or hate it all and either way I basically have to keep all my thoughts and opinions completely to myself?
Never heard of ambivalence? I feel much the same way about this place as I do the very society I live in: theres things about it I hate and things about it I love and I decided a while back that the things I loved were worth dealing with the things I hate...but does that mean I can't ever mention or express them?
Although I should have made it clearer: The arrogant and condescending was refering specifically to that comment within the blog. The statement itself "don't write like this" is what, for me, encompasses most of the issues with and again I say SOME Hatrack feedback...but even much of that which is encompassed in that is merely unhelpful and in no way offensive as such.
I'm not really accusing. I'm stating my experiences and feelings. And I'm intensely curious why it is that that is ok for everyone else, but not for me. Especially given that Hatrack has already lost a good few pleasant, useful contributors due to either the behaviour of specific posters which was offensive but who are not generally openly reprimanded as I am on most occasions that I express my feelings, or due to the...climate of non-acceptance perhaps? that is often offered not ever to people, but to certain types of stories and ways of writing, especially by some people.
I know there are at least a few people around here who value my posts, and plenty of people whose input I value. But you run the show, so, if you simply want me to leave...or basically not to ever voice any remotely negative thought about this place or its inhabitants, which for me is much the same thing, please just say so, and in that event I suppose I will leave.
[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited February 06, 2010).]
I'm sorry, Merlion-Emrys. I guess I'm just tired of your hobby horse--the one you jump on whenever someone offers feedback that you disagree with.
It's one thing to offer alternate feedback, but it's another thing to offer negative criticisms of other people's feedback and to launch into lectures about matters of taste and opinion and how we have a climate of non-acceptance of anything that you espouse.
Maybe you do need to ride your hobby horse somewhere else.
quote:How exactly do you know who I am or am not, or what I may or may not be capable of regardless of my level of experience (feel free to substitute those mys and Is for your own)? This echoes the so often heard "well, professional writers can get away with it." Why? What magical switch flips that gives them the ability to "break the rules the right way?" What if its a skill or talent inherent to them that they had from the begining of their writing? I mean, Mozart wrote symphonies at what, 14? Greg Lake wrote "Lucky Man" when he was like 12. Being new at something doesn't mean you may not have a good understanding of it or a natural talent with it or some aspects of it. Likewise, not yet being a bestselling author doesn't mean your new at it. So hearing essentially "You shouldn't write that, only pros are able to write that" or words to that effect is rather tiresome.
Umm, Mozart was a genius. I am not sure the rest of us fall into the catagory.
I think this advice is for beginers. It isn't that professionals are suddenly allowed to break the rules, it is that experienced writers can get away with breaking the rules. It has nothing to do with publication.
I think you need to learn how to clearly tell a straight forward story before you can start experimenting with punctuation or grammer or even nonlinear story lines.
Writing is a skill like any other, and you need to learn the basics before you start experimenting. You need to learn to read Dick and Jane before you can read Moby Dick. You need to learn basic addition before you can learn algebra.
Of course some people are exceptions; there are geniuses, but for most of us normal people, this is what works best.
[This message has been edited by MAP (edited February 06, 2010).]
quote:It's one thing to offer alternate feedback, but it's another thing to offer negative criticisms of other people's feedback and to launch into lectures about matters of taste and opinion and how we have a climate of non-acceptance of anything that you espouse.
No. I said there is a climate of non-acceptance of certain types of stories and styles of writing. And obviously its not everyone.
But I get attacked if I so much as mention it.
I guess dismissing people's writing is ok, but in any way criticising anyones feedback in any way shape or form is totally off limits.
And I guess people can't find it in them to simply ignore my comments they dislike, as I have so often been told to do even of offensive attacks.
Yeah, I could just leave. But to what purpose? Basically, to make happy those who disagree with me. I give up all the good that I do get from here, and gain nothing, and those who don't like what I say are the only ones who benefit from the situation. Why, exactly, would I willingly do that?
Thank you, MAP. Genius comes through regardless.
The rest of us have to muddle on as best we can, working our way through the steps, learning and practicing and growing until we reach a point where we can figure out what our own things are so we can start doing them.
We need to know what the tools are, and how they work, and why they were designed the way the were designed before we can make modifications to those tools or create our own tools.
I haven't actually visited authonomy.com, but it sounds like a good place to see what editors and first readers have to deal with every day. Having done some first reading in the past, I can certainly imagine.
The slush pile has been described as a crap shoot for editors, and I've heard that they look at the piles and piles of envelopes with a sigh, hoping that there might be even one manuscript in there that they can use. All too often, they are disappointed, and I suspect that the slush pile is a prime example of the "dirty job, but someone has to do it."
Edited to add: There is good stuff, too, though. Otherwise, editors and agents wouldn't bother with slush piles at all.
The thing is, workshops and conferences, and networking, help editors and agents find people who have done their homework and learned how to submit proper manuscripts and how to make good use of feedback (no matter who offers it), and that is half the battle right there.
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 06, 2010).]
I have to agree that the blog seems to be pretty basic advice.
As far as much of the rest of the discussion, I think Merlion's words have been misunderstood from his first post and that's started a lot of hubbub.
quote:nearly completely encapsulates many of the issues I have with the mood/tone/nature of some Hatrack feedback.
The word 'some' keeps it from being an overall attack on the forum. It's unfortunate that it was taken as such.
And I have to say that I completely agree with this:
quote:Comments that involve basically telling a person they need to just write a totally different story, or write in a totally different style are not, to me, constructive criticism.
I critiqued a story a few months back that had been written with a heavy Philly accent. In the F&F section his use of voice got ripped to shreds. The thing was, it actually played well in the story. I don't believe that person has posted on Hatrack since.
None of us are perfect critiquers, there is no such thing. But maybe we should consider broadening our concepts of what is acceptable. Nowadays there is a market for almost anything. If we're not already doing it, it might be a good idea to try and help people do a better job of what they're doing instead of trying to change them.
Merlion, stick around. Your voice is valuable. Like competition in business, a little dissension does a body good.
quote:Yeah, I could just leave. But to what purpose? Basically, to make happy those who disagree with me. I give up all the good that I do get from here, and gain nothing, and those who don't like what I say are the only ones who benefit from the situation. Why, exactly, would I willingly do that?
The trouble is who does 'some' refer to? It's a trap designed to eliminate anyone from disagreeing with it.
'Well," you can say, "I wasn't referring to you--you shouldn't take what I am saying so personally--I was generalising about my experiences and now you're attacking me."
I don't think Merlion has been misunderstood. He has been very clear about his views in the countless repetitive arguments about the same old subjects.
quote: In the F&F section his use of voice got ripped to shreds. The thing was, it actually played well in the story.
Then, clearly, your perception of the author's voice and what other's thought of it was different. You thought it worked, they didn't. As to the author never posting again--well, that's the author's prerogative. Not everyone likes to hear negative opinions about their work. I know I don't, but I don't then avoid them. I post stuff on website called Codex for people with at least one professional sale under their belt and they rip my stories to shreds. Many have multiple (20+) sales and some have major awards/award nominations.
Yes, it's dis-heartening, but at least they are honest. And I get to know what is wrong (from their very experienced perspectives), so then I get to fix it. I don't agree with everything they say--it's their opinion--but I thank them politely and hope they'll read the next thing I post.
And yes, if you want to sell it, there are stories you should avoid writing and styles that are less likely to work. And if you ask for opinions people may very well tell you that that applies to the lovely story you've slaved over for a month/week/whatever.
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited February 06, 2010).]
quote: I haven't actually visited authonomy.com, but it sounds like a good place to see what editors and first readers have to deal with every day. Having done some first reading in the past, I can certainly imagine.
Most of the stuff on authonomy is unbelievably bad. It's worth a visit, and I recommend it to all. You will certainly start gaining a better appreciation for editors and publishers and exactly what they have to put up with. I think you'll also gain an understanding why first-time authors are better off strictly adhereing to the rules, why they probably should avoid overused ideas and cliches, and why they need to seek quality criticism.
Everyone here knows just how tough it is to try and get published, but its tough being an editor as well -- something that, perhaps, we don't appreciate enough. Rejects seem arbitrary sometimes, and probably a lot of work gets rejected unfairly, but after spending a day on authonomy it's easy to see why editors get frustrated.
Okay, so the blogger didn't give an earth-shattering advice, but the fact is that many unpublished authors stumble on the basics.
This is supposed to be a forum for "open" discussions about writing, yet sometimes an intolerance for other points of view rears its ugly head.
I agree much with what Merlion has said, and hope he is not so concerned with what others have said to give them the satisfaction of disappearing from this forum. I value his input as much as any other, sometimes more so.
As I said once before, we communicate because we disagree. If we all agreed with everyone and everything than there would never have been a need for the blog post at the heart of this thread in the first place. All manuscripts would NOT start with someone waking up nor with weather, would all have good grammar and standard punctuation, no mistakes, no reasons to write back nasty notes (of which this writer has never done. People really do that? Wow,that's funny!).
And, honestly, how many times do I have to hear someone pontificate about not submitting your manuscript in fancy fonts. Come on, by now if anyone is doing that I would hope -- no expect -- the slush reader, editor, or agent to dismiss it immediately upon seeing the font, not reading a single word of the story, tossing it in the reject bin (if it deserves even that honor), and go on to a manuscript that, at first glance at least, appears to follow the rules even if one word has not yet been read.
Kathleen, I am grateful to you for offering your time and running a clean discussion group; for contributing to it. But, surely you don't think that the blog you site suggests that if an aspiring writer follows the "rules" he is on his way to getting published or even just through the slush pile for that matter?
Above all things there has to be a good story (not a great one, or so I hope) and good writing. Not to mention a whole bunch of luck. I mean loads of luck. Like catching an editor on a good day, or having your manuscript read by a slush reader that just so happens to like the types of stories one writes. Somehow I think a slush reader who adores epic fantasy novels would more than likely passover a scifi story than a slush reader who likes scifi would.
Anyway, I digress. Let's just keep the open in "Open Discussions."
A little off topic but does anyone here recommend authonomy?? I've never heard of it and was just wondering if anyone thinks it's a wise move. By displaying my book do I give up publishing rights?
[This message has been edited by andersonmcdonald (edited February 06, 2010).]
Speaking of not using funny fonts in your query... just out of curiosity, did anyone else find the white font on a textured red background difficult to read?
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from this cynic's point of view authonmy.com is an excuse for HarperCollins to eventually outsource their slush readers, assist editors, whatevers (bad economy, decline in print, etc.) and get a bunch of folks to read for free. I don't know that it will improve anyone's chance at being published, who knows? The site has details about your "rights" questions. Keep in mind no publisher ever has your rights to anything until you sign them over to them, which usually means they're going to publish your work.
If you want to elevate a discussion out of the realm of personal anything, you talk about ideas and principles, not people--not "some" people, not any people.
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Iconoclasts are not without value. Any group should have its values challenged from time to time. However, seeing the same values challenged again and again in exactly the same terms moves on from iconoclasm and goes down a wearying spiral of repetition (and runs an additional risk a la "Boy who cried wolf" - if the iconoclast actually DOES come up with good advice, it runs the risk of being ignored simply on principle).
Merlion, it seems to me that ANY time ANYONE posts ANY advice, or links to advice from others - even if that advice is from professional authors with dozens of publishing credits under their belt - you leap on to go "there is another way! it doesn't have to be like this!".
That's all very well - IF you can show good evidence that your alternative is successful.
To my awareness, you never have. I am not sure of your real name and therefore how many stories you've sold, but I have the impression that you have not had a great deal of success to date.
This is a site that gets a pretty much constant throughput of new members and aspiring authors (unlike many other such sites), many of whom are looking for advice. I certainly found the advice here that I received when I first started posting (about 5 years ago?) very very helpful; I have no doubt it has assisted significantly in the 30+ sales I have had since then. After a hiatus form the site, I came back to "Pay it forward" and try and add to the advice with what I'd learned myself. And there is still, obviously, much I myself can learn - I don't have the WOTF successes under my belt, for example, that many here do.
All advice is potentially useful. But if, let us say, you want to be a lion-tamer, it's probably wise to weight the advice you receive carefully, and pay a lot more attention to that coming from professional and experienced lion-tamers than from enthusiastic would-be lion-tamers who have never actually seen a lion. And certainly if the enthusiastic would-be lion-tamer is constantly shouting "no! the professional lion-tamers don't know what they're talking about!"... well, hopefully you get my point.
I am not an authority by any means, however, when an author is self-published he, by definition, owns all the rights to that work until someone else comes along and wants to buy them.
So whether one puts their work online, or in a spiral notebook and hands it out to friends, or pays for their work to be printed they still own all the rights.
Christopher Paolini was self-published until Knopff discovered his book "Eragon" and bought the rights...the rest as you know is history.
I will add one caveat, you should feel free to distribute your work wherever you think it will get due attention. Do not hold to conspiracy theories that publishers are lurking in the shadows to steal some unknown's work. They have enough to keep them busy as it is.
Thanks again. I suddenly remembered where I had read that!
"Second, Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum is not a publisher, and we do not want you to risk using up your electronic rights to a story by posting any more than the first 13 lines on our website. Most professional editors are not interested in purchasing work that has been published online, and we want you to have every chance to be professionally published if that is your goal."
If you publish your story online in a publicly available space, you are using up your first time electronic publishing rights. They are now gone. Nobody paid you for them.
It's not a big deal. I, for instance, am using up my first-time electronic publishing rights for this post. I can live with that.
However, if you aspire to be a professional writer--and by professional I mean someone who produces a product (stories) and is paid a sum of money by others (editors, the public, etc.) for that product--well...if you're choosing to give some of your product away for free by posting stories on a publicly available website, then I would hope it's part of a larger marketing strategy you have for yourself.
In my experience and my knowledge, this is not the typical path to publication for most aspiring professional writers. Most aspiring professional writers lose the "aspiring" part by producing more product, making each product better than the last, and continually putting their product out there in the marketplace in the hands of people who can pay them cash green money for it. I'm channeling Dean Wesley Smith with this, check out his blog if you want more details as he's got a great take on the publishing industry.
I know plenty of writers who self-publish, however they are even more loath to give away their product for free because they don't have someone who has handed them some kind of advance for their book, instead they're out the money they had to spend on printing the books in the first place, and are doing their darned best to recoup that investment and turn a profit on their product.
If you choose to put your product out there for free, my suggestion is to be fully informed about what you are doing, and fully aware that 99% of the editors who buy short fiction are not interested in stuff that's already out there for free. Why would they buy a piece that their customers have to pay $5/magazine to read when it's out there for free? There are anthologies who publish reprints by packaging them up with other like stories or best-ofs for a year, but that's not the same thing.
And for another perspective on slush reading:
I'm one of the slush readers for Flash Fiction Online and we recently had to find a *different* story to buy when the Editor discovered that the story he wanted to buy was already posted on the writer's blog. He had money available to pay to this writer, and because the writer chose to make the product available for free, the money went to someone else. True, it wasn't thousands of dollars or anything, but $50 someone could have earned but didn't. (FFO is a SFWA-qualifying market, as we buy flash fiction stories which are under 1k words, and pay $50/story, which is at least 5c/word.)
We also have months where we slush and there's not a single thing I want to recommend, and other months when I wish we had the funds to publish eight stories instead of the three our budget allows. In case you were curious about our process (which is outlined on the FFO website here: We have a number of slush readers in teams of three, each team reads a pile of slush and puts forth rejects/recommends/middle of the roads, then we get together as an editorial team and look at all the recommends and nominate our favorites. The editor makes the final call.
Thanks KayTi! As you probably guessed, I'm pretty new to this sort of thing. Just wanted to know my options/limitations. One more thing: Say for the sake of argument I've written a novel that I just KNOW has the potential to be a big hit (haven't we all!!! LOL). What are your thoughts on the wisest course of action? Self-publish and self-promote through a website, or try the more traditional route? I'm just trying to get a feel for the current mood among writers. Michael Stackpole has some really interesting things to say about self-publishing and e-books. It piqued my interest, mostly because it raised doubts about the future of traditional publishing.
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(1) I'm inclined to think if an editor sees too much of one particular thing, it's likely to turn him off it---but the writer won't necessarily know this unless the editor tells him in the rejection slip. I guess there's been too much "waking up" openings---a good way to open, actually, but I found I was using it too much and have tried to get around it.
(2) I concur with not using radically different fonts and sizes in a MS. But there are limits---some of you might recall some arguments I've had with people about Times New Roman.
(3) What is it, something can't be literary fiction and genre fiction at the same time?
(4) Been awhile since I've read my Strunk & White...I should dig out my copy and give it another going-over.
As for the discussion, well...write your work the best way you know, take advice if offered...and the worst any editor can do is reject it. (The fools, they.)
While some of this seems pretty basic, I think hatrack either attracts a better crowd or the really awful drop away. Like, some people on the nano boards are pretty clueless (some are awesome obviously, but a lot are not). Or there is another forum, which shall remain nameless, where someone has been arguing that following printed rules on query submission is ridiculous and unfair. If an agent is not willing to read his wrongly formatted query, then they are bad agents that he would not want to work with. And then he complains about not getting published.
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I, personally, have always wanted to understand the rules. Why the rule exists. If I understand it, then I can figure out when it applies--and when it doesn't, when I might knowingly choose to break it. And take my chances by doing so.
Sometimes, even the most revered of rules just doesn't apply. I have, for example, been told in critiques that I should write a scene to make something stronger. "Show, don't tell." Well, yes. Except that the scene would add five pages that do absolutely nothing to advance the plot. Two paragraphs did what I needed. Rules learned by rote just don't always work.
I think an open discussion facilitates that and I'd be sorry to see it quashed.
Addressing andersonmcdonald's question - Eragon is the *only* example I can think of where a self-published book made it big. And the way it made it big was by being picked up by a big-name publisher. And that was...how many years ago? About five? Does anyone know of any other examples?
For me, I am going the traditional publisher route. I have three novels in varying states of completion, a dozen short stories. I submit short stories to markets as I can find them (some are quirky and I personally find it time consuming to match story to market, others have this down to a science and keep their inventory out on the market at all times...a story gets rejected by publication a, the next day it's in the mail/cyberspace on its way to publication b. I'm not that efficient yet.) I am working on one of the three novels, with the goal to be querying agents and those few publishers who accept unagented manuscripts within a few months.
Self-publishing versus traditional publishing is one of those moving targets right now in the publication world. We've dealt with it here on Hatrack a number of times. You can search the archives (or start your own thread.) However, my personal take is that self-publishing requires a certain kind of self-promoter to be successful (a lot of people I know who have had some success in self-publishing are entrepreneurs, for example.) That's not the kind of person I am, those aren't my strengths. I think a traditional publication route would be a better fit for me.
andersonmcdonald - self-publishing has a place and some people have used it very successfully. MOST of those people, however, were already reasonably high-profile in one way or another.
If you have written a novel you believe can be a big hit, then consider this: if you self-publish it, how will you actually go about getting readers? Books from "traditional" publishers get put on bookshelves through distributor deals, they get reviewed in Publisher's Weekly and elsewhere. Self-published books get nothing. We've surely all seen people who go to desperate and absurd lengths to promote their own work (I saw one forum post by someone trying to drum up interest in his appalling self-pulished book by claiming it was really by Stephen King), and it's frankly embarrassing. Some people can self-publicise and do it well - but it is a talent, and not one that necessarily coincides with writing talent.
I would always recommend someone to try "traditional" publishing first. What do you lose by trying that and failing? Nothing.
And I wish people would stop using that "Eragon" example as to how self-publishing can work. Strictly, it wan't self-published - his parents owned a small publishing company and had a lot of experience in the business already. Even then, Paolini had to promote it mercilessly with well over 100 live (and "in-costume") appearances...
quote:(3) What is it, something can't be literary fiction and genre fiction at the same time?
No, that's not what he's saying. He's just saying if editor A is a literary fiction editor, and editor B is a science fiction editor, don't call your work "literary science fiction" and send it to both. More often than not, call it "science fiction" and send it to editor B.
quote:There's no reason why genre fiction can't be literary (look at Ray Bradbury's best work); in fact, it will have a better chance if it has some literary value and is well written. But that doesn't make it literary fiction. If an agent reps literary fiction only, do not send him your literary science fiction
Of course, a writer can try - no one says he can't - but the significant demographic that preceded him and failed suggest that there's a wiser course of action. Which explains why some critiques in Fragments & Feedback get comments like
quote:Another story that starts with waking up, you'll have to work extra hard then to push through the cliche.
Which then explains why this thread exists, because some people who may receive such feedback may not understand why. After they understand, they can still disagree with it, of course.
Thanks KayTi and tchernabyelo! The "Big Hit" novel was only a hypothetical. I really have no idea. I was just curious about the general take on selling your own works independently. I do see a major problem for an unknown as far as promotion. And since I don't have any intention of wearing a costume and making a complete ass of myself, I think traditonal publishing is the path I'll choose.
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As for whether something can be "literary fiction and genre fiction at the same time" - no, frankly, it can't.
It can be genre fiction, written in a literary style (Bradbury, Zelazny, etc). It can be literary fiction that happens to be in genre (much Margaret Attwood fits here). But although you can <b>write</b> something that's both, you can't <b>sell</b> it as both; it will end up in a category, whether you like it or not. And there are no shelves out there labelled "literary genre fiction".
Not to pile on the traditional publishing bandwagon or anything, but the need to self-promote is just one of the issues facing the self-publishers.
For my mind, the bigger issue is one of distribution. Cat Sparks (whom I know) ran a small press publisher for a couple of years and their biggest problem was distribution (warning, quite a few swear words):
For an individual, it's even harder to convince bookstores to accept stock and it's all going to be on consignment. Cat had the advantage of long experience in the field, editorial and design experience, and a lot of connections.
I think you can successfully self-publish, but you've got to be a top-notch self-promoter, understand your market and have great business skills. Most of the time, self-publishing isn't well suited to genre fiction. Those who make money out of self-publishing tend to have highly targeted non-fiction books and the writers know their markets and business inside-out. There are exceptions in genre fiction, but there's always exceptions.
If "literary fiction is literary fiction, and genre fiction is genre fiction, and never the twain shall meet," how do you explain the career of Michael Chabon? I certainly don't see the two as mutually exclusive...
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quote:If "literary fiction is literary fiction, and genre fiction is genre fiction, and never the twain shall meet," how do you explain the career of Michael Chabon? I certainly don't see the two as mutually exclusive...
I believe Michael Chabon has mostly been position in book stores as a literary writer. As Tchernabyelo said, selling is a different proposition to what you write.
Margaret Atwood does write a lot of genre fiction (even if she doesn't believe so), but she's always sold in the literary fictoin section of the bookstore. The Road is, in my opinion, genre fiction, but you'll be hard pressed to find it in the SF section of the bookstore.
It's starting to look like "literary fiction" is selling better than genre SF---the latest issue of Locus, with year-in-review data, has a page that covers the sales of the SF magazines, again / still in decline. Why limit yourself to a dying form, the SF short story?
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This whole topic has a weird Groundhog Day feel to it.
1) Author writes "cliche" story or otherwise "breaks the rules". 2) Editor rejects said story, for the above indicated offenses. 3) Editor blogs about said offenses and otherwise puts together a list of "the rules" or some such guideline for new authors.
Now, this is the point where quantum mechanics comes into play.
4) a) New author (lets call him Felix Schrödinger) reads rules, takes lessons to heart, goes on to write further works to varied but generally positive results.
4) b) New author (also called Felix Schrödinger) reads rules, does not take lessons to heart, goes on to write further to varied but generally negative results.
4) c) New author (also called Felix Schrödinger) does not read rules, does not take lessons to heart, goes on to write further to varied but generally negative results.
Now, in quantum superposition a), Felix goes on to be a writer of some fame, perhaps even attaining superduperstardom. In quantum superpositions b) and c), Felix finds himself in a causality loop, restarting the sequence at position 1) again.
There is of course, a fourth possible quantum superposition:
4) d) New author (now called Neo Schrödinger) does not read rules, does not take lessons to heart, discovers success outside of the established system of success and failure, goes on to write further to varied but generally positive results.
Alas, the Matrix itself is the result of a), so this superposition were it to come to pass would result in a temporal paradox that causes a terminal reversal of all entropy in the universe, destroying life as we know it.