Monday, July 25, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

In the writing world, one of the most important lessons to learn is that patience is a virtue. It takes patience to finish a story. It takes patience to edit it over and over until it is just right. It takes patience to wait to hear back from agents to get the book accepted. Then there is the patience of waiting for the agent to find a publisher. (Yes, I am aware that there are many other aspects such as perseverance, commitment, a tough skin, etc. but we are just looking at patience today!) I will be the first to admit that patience is not my strong suit.

I have recently been having the debate of e-publishing with several of my friends. There is something very appealing about the idea, especially as you learn that you as a writer will be expected to do a large amount of the marketing yourself even working for a publishing firm. The simplicity and speed of e-publishing is exciting. The more books you publish the more money you can make, right? And with the advent of Amazon's new publishing program that allows you to publish basically for free and pay a small percentage of each sale, the ease of self-publishing and the cost become as close to instant gratification as a person can get. When you also have the benefit of removing editing fees, agent fees and publishers fees, where is the argument against it?

I am looking into it more and more. I am actually working on an e-book to give away to you, my loyal followers. My husband thinks I should not stop there. He believes that I should publish my next book this way. But there is a part of me that is more than a little bit old-fashioned. I am hesitant. And after all of the good points mentioned above, you may be asking yourself "Is she crazy? Where is the downside here?"

But I have taken a look at some of the books available through e-publishing and it is... scary. With such ease and instant gratification, there is the danger that anyone can do it.... so anyone will. Gone will be the culling of quality ideas, the shaping and crafting of each line. The second (or third or fourth...) pair of eyes to catch the little mistakes. My fear is that the quality of writing will begin to fail. Many already believe that the quality has gone downhill over the last several years. But I am not talking about a few minor errors, I am talking about a landslide destruction of the written language.

I think that the simplicity of e-publishing and the beauty of it will be destroyed by people who do not have the patience to create quality work. How long will this new industry survive in this format?  How long will it take before these "open" sources will be neglected and ignored by the major populace because overall the quality of the work will not be worth the low cost of the product? If you are thinking of braving the e-publishing world, please keep these concerns in mind. Do not publish your book to the masses until you are absolutely certain that it is as complete as it can be.

Have every friend that is willing read, review and offer improvements. Find a teacher, or someone that is excellent at editing, and ask them to give it a go. Expect that not everyone will be willing to do it for free, but know that the cost will be worth putting out a quality product. If authors can take that responsibility, then I think that this new format can and will survive. But if we do not self-regulate, then this industry will become as weighted and as cumbersome to negotiate as the current publishing industry we have or it will die out.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts on e-publishing in the comments below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Banning is At It Again

  A few weeks back, there was an article in the Wall Street journal that brought up book banning. Now, I know that for many of us creative-types out there, the word just sends us into automatic lock down. How dare they!! But I have taken a step back from my immediate outrage at the thought of oppression of the freedom of expression and have been thinking about this issue more and more.

   For any of you who do not know, the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) was formed back in the 1920’s in the industries’ direct response to a call by the people for government censorship. The ESRB (The Entertainment Software Rating Board) was established in the 1990’s for basically the same reason.

Books have been around far longer and have never had to resort to such methods, but times are changing and it may be something to consider. From all my research and observation it has become clear that there are books being written that are being marketed directly towards teens (in particular) that has content that may not be appropriate for teens.

Now I think that part of the problem is that the writers are not necessarily writing for teens. For example, Stephen King often has teen characters in his books, but that does not necessarily mean that those books were written for teens. There are genres that are marketed towards teens because the industry believes that they are the best primary candidates. (For example, paranormal stories.) I recently had someone inform me that my own first novel, a story about a 20 year old woman with psychic powers who teams up with the local detective to catch a serial killer, would be a great Young Adult book.

What?!?!? My book is not even remotely appropriate for young teens. It was not written for teens. I wrote my story for adults! There is language, violence, adult materials… If I had written it for teens, then there is a little scene at the end that I probably would have completely taken out!

   But then my friend pointed out that other than language, my book really wasn’t that different from Twilight or Vampire Academy. Ouch… and yet at the same time, I could only HOPE my book could be that successful. But what made Twilight the multi-million dollar monstrosity that it has become? Teens. And as those dollar signs flash across my lids I have to slap my greedy little self and shout “NO!!! This book is NOT for TEENS!!”

    But can I make my agent, publisher and everyone else in the industry NOT publish it as a teen novel? I don’t have that power. And if my book will appeal to teens, who are a major driving force of the book industry, then my publisher would lose money NOT marketing to them. Crap!

So how will the book industry get around this latest dilemma? Is it time to start rating books as we do movies and games? If the publishing industry does not step up; will regulations be forced upon us by the government, who is so ready to get into any and every little thing that affects Americans lives? What do you think? How would you address this issue if you were a major player in the publishing industry?

Share in the comments below.