Random Friday

… is actually a continuation of Sunday’s conversation! 🙂 That’s because otherwise where’s the surprise next Sunday? So you get a writerly week all over – if you’re not a writer, I’ll see you next week. We were discussing writing and publishing with the Rodent… and here’s the best part!

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

harlotofvenusAfter completing my very first novel, way back in the day, I sent it to a couple of places and ended up being accepted by a small publisher, Spectrum Press in Chicago. SP was publishing on 3.5 inch floppy disks at the time. SP also published two of my other books. (And just so you know, rejected one, which I later released on my own; it now has a fabulous cover by Lane Brown, and it’s wonderfully bannable, which was why it was rejected.) SP were also peddling their books around to “trad” publishers, and in 1996, “A Harlot of Venus” — first in what has become the MW series — was published by Masquerade Books in New York. I still have half a dozen copies of that paperback edition.

So, yes, I’ve been “traditionally published”, but I didn’t make a zillion dollars on the book. One of my stories was also published in an on-line journal one time, but I hated the editorial process the story went through. I vowed never again to subject myself to the poisonous fangs of an “editor”. I’ve never submitted another manuscript for publication, and probably never will. I would rather sit quietly under my rock and do my own thing.

From what I gathered, nobody made a zillion dollars with trad publishing except the notorious bestsellers… Any other projects in the pipeline?

There are always projects, but I’m also between major projects, a little. The last MW novel was about 550 pages with a large cast of characters so it took a lot of inspirational energy, and it was followed by a couple of shorter novellas. So I’m now having a period of rest and gathering new inspiration from all those dreams and visions.

Cool! What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I don’t really have goals, because I’m not really a “writer”, per se. I’m not trying to sell a lot of books and make money. The kind of work I do is not conducive to that. It’s more intimate and personal. I don’t write books for an audience, really — except for the nice artists who have done cover art for me over the last 5 years or so. I write books for my own amusement. And I like the end-to-end process of writing, editing, formatting and typesetting, book design — and finally making a web site to show off the catalog of works. Then buying a copy and putting it on my shelf. They look so nice there together.

Recently I also joined Goodreads because I discovered that someone posted bibliographic info on a couple of my earlier books there, probably from some wacky ISBN data; and I didn’t like those editions. They also mixed me up with another author, so I wanted to fix all the bibliographic entries. They are now straight.

Anyway… I’m not an editor, and I can’t afford to hire an editor (even a copy-editor), so I’m sure my books are full of “problems” that Real Editors would love to fix. But the books are also, in my opinion, not too bad as they stand. When I finish a book and look even at a first draft, I can usually say: “I’ve read worse books in print”. Not exactly a seal of approval, but there you go. Of course no proof-reader is perfect, and in any ordered list of 100,000 words — that’s what a book is, you know, an ordered list of words — there is always at least one more spelling error lurking. Not to mention grammatical problems and so forth. That’s why I continually revise my work. As I find these errors and problems, I just fix them and upload new files.

lipstickAnd then there’s sales. For example: Amazon, Smashwords, etc. I don’t use those outlets.

And then there’s Goodreads. I find the whole concept of people reviewing my work and grading me to be a little scary, and a bit like grammar school. Why? Because I didn’t write these books for them — I mean members of the public at large. (You might have guessed that grading and tests were the only things I didn’t like about school; I loved doing assignments, reading text-books, and learning things.) When I edit a draft and create a subsequent draft, I don’t look at the book in terms of how many I can sell if I do X and Y, or how well-liked the book will be within some target audience. That isn’t the point of writing. My books only have to satisfy my own egotistical involvement with their production process. And if someone stumbles over one and can’t avoid reading it, well… At least I can say I’m not over-charging my readers. For a physical book, readers can expect to pay exactly what I pay: the cost of printing and shipping. For e-books, I’ve been experimenting with charging exactly one or two dollars over “production cost” with the hope that I can someday use the funds to buy a cappuccino for one of my cover artists. LOL.

Well, I also tend to write for myself… although I’m sure I can find another thousand or so souls who like what I write! As for editors, even if I’m aware my English is better than many natives, I’d rather have someone go through my final drafts – I tend to do stupid mistakes after all these years! 🙂 Luckily DayJob is still paying those bills, but eventually Mr Writing will support himself. One can always hope, right?

Sorry, I’m rambling! On Goodreads I heard you mention a certain list – to which I’m honored to have been added (especially since I’m not a native English speaker). Would you like to talk about that? And what do you think about this self-pub revolution?

I’m in favor of it. It allows control over the entire process and the end product — I can get the “lurid covers” I want, for example. In my one trad-publishing foray mentioned above, I didn’t get the kind of cover I wanted, and the publisher didn’t include my maps. (Oh, did I mention that I like maps? I do.) So from that standpoint, self-pub is great.

Nowadays the means of production for books are so widely available that anyone can publish their book quite easily — whether it’s ready or not. Lack of filters creates a severe quality problem. In a traditional publishing house, editors provided thorough preening and cleaning, rounds of galleys and proofs; even before that, they rejected most of the submitted manuscripts because — even if everyone has a story to tell — not every book is worth stocking in a bookstore.

When writers become publishers they need to assume the responsibilities of the publisher: the tasks of deep editing, copy-editing, cover design and formatting; and perhaps finding advance readers to assist with some tasks. Individuals often can’t afford professional editing and cover art. The trade-off that’s made in this market often sacrifices quality, in many aspects of production. Now we have huge catalogs of self-published books, including the 90% of stuff that traditional publishers would have rejected. (The flip side is that we also sometimes get fabulous, quirky, truly unique work which never would have passed muster with any publisher; but it’s still rare.) The good stuff (for any given reader) may be difficult to find.

In a recent conversation on Goodreads people were talking about starting a seal of approval program with a website. It’s not clear to me that would be effective at curbing the quality problems, or making it easier for readers to find a book that’s right for them, or worth reading. But it could help. (And of course, it might quickly turn into elitism.) Some readers don’t care about typographical errors and poor grammar, or even poor story-telling (for example in fan-fiction the fans are most interested in the characters). There are so many attributes of books that are matters of taste: subject matter, prose style, character development, plot… As the conversation went on, I realized we can separate matters of taste from mechanics. Readers should be able to depend on a published book meeting really basic mechanical criteria: proper spelling, reasonable grammar, coherent sentence structure, and the like. The author is supposed to provide some of those, and the publisher is supposed to catch other problems. This doesn’t always work in the Indie world.

So I decided to stir things up with a little satire. I made my own award, a logo program which I call the “Rat of Approval™”. Ah, yes, it’s that list you mentioned above. I introduced this award in my blog over on Goodreads; you can find it here: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4191412-srop-announces-rat-of-approval-logo-program

Can I display my Rat of Approval on this post?

Absolutely! You’ve earned that rodent, and you’re welcome to display it anywhere you like. You can link back to the list, too, if you want. Oh, the little rat logo was designed for SROP by Christine Larsen, who also designed beautiful covers for five of my books, and my site layout as well.

So, there you have it! I’m putting it also in the Find My Stuff page, so whoever comes when this post is long archived, they’ll know I’m okay! 😀

Want to earn your Rat of Approval? Go and apply! 🙂 Thank you for playing along!


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1 Comment

  1. Entertaining as always!



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