Tab Earley

27 January, 2012

Well Thanks But… What?

Filed under: publishing — Tab Earley @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

Working in publishing gives you valuable insight into the process. For instance, if you were the sort of person who doesn’t understand why publishers and agents require things to be formatted a certain way, working for one would make it clear. The short answer is: because it makes everything easier. The more difficult you make it for someone to read your work, the less likely you are to get anywhere.

The other thing working in publishing does is make you wonder just what some people are on. And whether you can get some. I am constantly astonished (embarrassed, annoyed, saddened) by the things people send to publishers and the way they present themselves.  Letters full of typos, manuscripts that are huge blocks of unbroken text, questions that a quick five-minute internet search would answer. To say nothing of people who send a manuscript and then phone the next day to ask if we’ve read it. (This did happen.)

On my good days, I tell myself that they don’t know any better. On my less than good days, I tell myself that they should, because this information is not difficult to find. If you’re willing to take the time to write a book, you ought to be willing to take the time to find out how to get it published and do it right. The problem is that most people aren’t willing to do it right. They wouldn’t try to become a lawyer or a nurse just by ringing someone up and asking, so why do they think it works that way with being an author?

The obvious answer stems from the idea that anyone can write a book. Sure, anyone can write a book, but not everyone can write a good book or an interesting book. And not everyone can write a book that people want to buy or read. And not everyone can follow simple instructions. Not everyone wants to, either. They want guarantees (there aren’t any), they want instant results, but they don’t want to do the basic legwork required to get their work in front of the right pair of eyes.  I’m a writer myself, and it embarrasses me to see other writers behaving this way.

I guess what irks me most about it is the sense of entitlement. I have written a book, therefore I deserve to gain success from it. Sorry, chief, but it doesn’t work that way. Life is uncertain, and so is publishing.


29 March, 2011

why i still don’t like self-publishing

Filed under: publishing — Tab Earley @ 10:15 am
Tags: , ,

I really think this little incident serves as a good specimen of why I still can’t get on board with DIY publishing. Not to say that professional authors don’t engage in the same kind of tantrum, because they do. However, at least professional authors have gone through the process of querying, getting an agent, getting published, the sort of gruntwork that it seems many self-published writers can’t be bothered to do.

I’m sure there are people who self-publish who have a lot of talent and are just tired of the repetitive and disappointing process of querying and rejection. (There are also people in various industries who do it for various logistical reasons, but I’m talking about fiction here.) It can be gutting to be told your work isn’t good enough, and going the self-pub route isn’t necessarily an indication that your work is tripe. I think it’ll be interesting to see how this sort of thing evolves as the publishing industry continues to falter and big-name booksellers continue to go out of business.

However. The link above unfortunately illustrates all of the familiar touchstones of the self-published writer: badly-written prose, little or no editing, tantrums over reviews that dare to mention those two things, and an ego in inverse proportion to the writer’s talent. To be blunt, I thought the reviewer was a lot kinder than he could have (maybe should have) been. It’s hard to find nice things to say about work that an author clearly couldn’t be bothered to proofread properly, so kudos to him for even trying. I certainly wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, the writer vomiting up adolescent entitlement all over his post lacks the same sense of perspective. This is why she hasn’t been published, and why she probably never will. Not because she lacks talent– the concept is subjective at the best of times– but because she lacks so many other things.

One thing I’ve had to learn myself is that writing is not easy. It’s not just a matter of sitting down, typing out some stuff, and then slapping it up for other people to read and waiting for the adulation to roll in. It requires something more than just raw talent: it requires work and perspective. I have trouble with that first one, which is probably why I haven’t been published myself. Writers are lazy people, and we have to fight that natural predilection for sloth in order to get anywhere.

I do, however, think I have a good sense of perspective. I knew for a very long time that my work wasn’t good enough for publication, and only now that I feel it is will I submit it. When it’s ready (and it isn’t yet), I will happily send it off to a publisher or agent. And if that publisher or agent doesn’t like it, doesn’t think it’s right for them, or just isn’t interested, I will be glad to take whatever feedback I can get, process it, and then send the work out again.  Wash, rinse, repeat. And if it turns out that I discover a way to do self-publishing that won’t eat up every single hour of my day with publicity, social networking, and admin (leaving little time for actual writing), I might do so.

Being, as I said, a lazy person, I am content to let the publisher/agent do as much of the legwork as they will do. That’s why we have them: they do things like setting up book signings and interviews and sending out review copies so that we don’t have to. Even successful self-publishers make the jump to traditional publishing when they can. They have connections that we as writers don’t have, publicity machines that we could never hope to equal. So I’m quite happy to do things the old-fashioned way for the time being.

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