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Archive for February, 2014

Which Way?

Which Way?

In the publishing/writing world lately, there’s been much chatter about authors uniting to fight for fair treatment and compensation from traditional publishers. A recent article posted on Jane Friedman‘s blog, journalist Porter Anderson discusses a report published by bestselling author, Hugh Howey, which has garnered much talk on both sides of the fence. This grass-roots movement is spreading globally, and many claim it’s a long time coming. What I’ve read on this and other forums indicates writers are speaking out about the poor treatment they’ve often received in the past. This includes everything from fair contract terms regarding rights to the author’s work, to how much the author is paid for said work. I also recently viewed an interesting video interview with self-published writer, Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, and best-seller author, Colin Falconer, which addresses, among other things,  the issues Mr. Falconer has experienced with traditional publishing.

We all know the story of the starving artist who struggles for years, or even until death, with poverty while striving to bring his/her art form forward for recognition and purchase. It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting, music, or writing, the artist is expected to go through angst to bring his/her art to the world at large. I get that. The artist has to develop and perfect their technique in order to produce works fit for public consumption and recognition. This takes time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears. I have no issue with this facet of the creation process. This time also serves to weed out those who don’t have the drive and commitment to succeed in the crazy business of, in this case, book publishing.

But times are changing. Self-publishing has blasted open doors previously closed to writers, and many claim it’s about time. Too long have the old “gate-keepers” of traditional publishing held all the cards. The digitalization of publishing has given writers options never before possible. To be sure, some, perhaps even most, of those first writers who began self-publishing turned out less than stellar work in their haste to “publish” their stories. But that too is changing. More and more writers are learning the business of publishing from the ground up, fine-tuning their skills, and hiring professional editors, cover artists, printers, etc., to ensure the finished product can stand side by side with traditionally published books. The truth is, most of the reading public could care less about who published the books. They care about the quality of the writing and stories, and want to be sure that the books they pay their hard-earned cash for are of professional quality. Over time, they come to care for the writers who pen the books. They seek out other works by that same author, and they tell their friends about the books and authors they’ve enjoyed. Readers become the most valuable marketing tool there is via word-of-mouth. In other words, writers, not publishers, are the hub around which the book publishing business revolves. Without us, the publishing industry wouldn’t have the jobs and companies they hold so dear.

Connecting

Connecting

Social media has made a huge impression on the publishing world, and on the authors who write the books the public craves. For the first time ever, anyone can access the words and lives of even some of the world’s most famous authors. Today’s authors usually have a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, a web page, and many now also blog regularly. These windows into the writer’s world allow readers to tap into a writer’s daily goings-on and musings instantly. No longer are writers the obscure creatures behind the penned word. We are coming out into the light and being seen in greater numbers, by greater numbers. We are reaching across the oceans and lands to connect and be connected. We talk. We learn from each other. We hear the stories of who is doing what within the publishing houses. We begin to understand that not all publishers, agents, and editors are created equal. Some treat their authors very well, and fairly, while others do not. We whisper the names of these companies, and the people who make the rules that govern traditional publishing. Writers are becoming more vocal about the poor treatment they’ve received with some publishing houses/agents, and are warning new writers coming up through the ranks to beware. Writers are starting to lift their heads and wonder how, collectively, we can help those working in the publishing industry develop closer, better relationships with their authors.

I’d like to pause here and say that again. We’d like to help them develop better relationships. We don’t want to tear them down. Not really. Writers who seek traditional publishing want to work together to produce the best work possible for the public to enjoy. What we’re asking for is fair and equitable contracts and payment for our work. For those who prefer self-publishing, again, I believe most authors are simply looking to assist one another in the process. A growing number of writers are becoming what is known as “hybrid writers”. Which is to say that these writers choose to work with traditional houses/agents on some projects, while self-publishing others, for a variety of reasons. Personally, I’m in tremendous favour of this model, since it gives control back to the writer, the creator of the marketable work. I think we’ll see more of this writer model in the months and years to come.

It’s a hard road either way. Publishing and writing is not for the faint of heart. But it doesn’t have to be a competition, does it? I’d love to see a day when writers, publishers, agents, and editors like and respect each other. When contracts with publishers and agents reflect the true value of the work and the author, and writers are paid fairly for work which has been deemed marketable. I’d like to see writers have more say with regards to contracts, terms, and negotiations with traditional publishers.

Working Together

Working Together

Change is never easy. Change is difficult and painful, but it’s often necessary to achieve true, long-term success. I’d like to suggest writers and those in the publishing industry come to the table with open hands and minds. My first book was with a small, independent press, as will my second, soon-to-be released book. I’m in the midst of writing a third novel in a completely different genre, so am not sure where it’s going to land. However, if I decide to self-publish future books, I like to think I’ll be respected for my decisions, so long as the end result is professional, and readers enjoy the stories. Writing is an art form and creation process, but it’s also a business. Let’s all make solid, informed business decisions when publishing books and work together, rather than separately.

What are your thoughts on traditional vs self-publishing? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do share, and of course, leave a comment. Thank you

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Moving on Up

Moving on Up

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved more than my fair share of times. Every time I do, I swear it’ll be the last move I make for a long, long time. But, life gets in the way of my plans, and so, we move when changing circumstances dictate. Adapting to moves, or any major changes, is never easy. In fact, most people actively avoid serious stressors, but according to the article The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress on The 6 Healthy Habits, how we react to stress determines how we cope.

As with any major life change, the emotional and physical toll can be high. Fortunately I’ve always been the type of person who, once I make up my mind to do/not do something, I forge ahead. My husband is the planner, making lists, spreadsheets, and so on. Me, not so much. I look at the big picture and map out a course I believe is the right one for me, then I go for it. Don’t get me wrong, when I need to be detailed in a task, I can do it just fine. I’m also routine oriented. Routines help me focus and feel in control. Even jobs that have no set regimen, like writing, I quickly establish an overall work pattern and adapt as needed, depending on the demands of the day. We’re a good team, my husband and I. He’s a planner, while I’m more of a doer. We don’t always agree, but we make most things work for us and keep to the shared path.

Of course no one’s life is ever on a completely even path, and days before we recently moved, I received the next edits on the In The Spirit Of Forgiveness manuscript. Talk about pressure. I wanted, and needed, to get to those edits and return them to my publisher as quickly as possible, but I simply didn’t have the time. I had to scramble to do them when I could, in between unpacking at the new place, and learning the ins and outs of a new job.

New Baby

New Baby

A couple of days after our move, my nephew’s wife decided to give birth to their first child, which I had promised and wanted to attend, come hell or high water. I was now living in a city forty-five minutes from theirs, which isn’t onerous in good weather, but in a Canadian winter, not always great. I hate the cold and snow of winter, and I hate the often poor road conditions even more. Still, the road conditions were favourable that day, so I off I went to attend at the birth of my new great-niece, Brianna Lee Stewart. I’m happy to say, all went extremely well, but it certainly added to my fatigue when I returned to work the next day. That’s life; it pulls and pushes you in directions you didn’t know you were going in, and being able to adapt to new situations is important.

For my first full day off, I committed to working on my edits as much as possible. I was excited and anxious to get back to my love; writing. I’d been itching to sit down and re-read the words I’d written so many months ago, and see what nuggets of information and correction my publisher had provided. As I began, it occurred to me that editing a manuscript isn’t that dissimilar to life. I may even have said it a time or two before. For the most part, we go along our merry path in life, sure of the road we walk, then BAM, something happens to throw us off and send us in an entirely new direction.

In the process of writing, writers often need to re-write, revise, or edit the heck out of a story. Characters often need fine tuning, and some evolve into a stronger presence than initially intended. It occurs to me that editing is adaptability at it’s finest, and as a writer, I’m learning to embrace it fully. Change is never easy, and for most, it’s downright unpleasant. In fact, most people only change when it’s forced on them out of necessity. We change a pattern or direction because we need to, not necessarily because we want to, or just for the heck of it.

A New Direction

A New Direction

In writing, when an editor or publisher gives you direction and suggestions, as a writer it’s your job to keep an open mind, review the suggestion with an open mind. Then, you do what needs to be done to make your story as well put together and professional as possible. In short, you need to get rid of the ego and be flexible; adapt. Writing is a job, as much as it’s an art, so somewhere along the line, someone is going to tell you how to clean up your act and polish your work so it shines.

I also believe writing a book takes a village; the writer, the publisher and/or agent, the editor, the cover artist, the printer, and so on. We all contribute to the finished product, and if we’ve done our jobs correctly, somewhere a reader will fall in love with the words we’ve strung together and the stories we’ve woven. For self-published writers, depending on their own skill sets and comfort level, they still must bring together a team of professionals to help them get the book edited, packaged, printed, uploaded, etc. Then there’s a website to be built and maintained, blogging, social networking, and public appearances that need to be dealt with on a regular, on-going basis. You might be the hub everything revolves around, but a professional writer understands the benefits of delegation of tasks they may have little expertise or experience with.

Today, anyone involved in the book publishing industry must be even more open to change than ever before. In a broad, global scope, publishing is undergoing massive changes. This is primarily thanks to the development and explosion of e-books, e-venues, and how readers gain access to books on-line. For years a standard process had been set forth, but now everything is open to change. Writers have had to learn to adapt and swim in these new waters, just as publishers and agents do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time writer, or best-seller. It doesn’t matter if a publisher/agent is a large house, or independent. We’re all learning to swim new strokes and trying to stay afloat. Change is inevitable, but not always welcomed by all. For some, drastic changes will swamp them and they’ll drown, while others will swim faster and stronger, and therefore, succeed.

Adaptability in writing also comes in the form of mediums for stories. For example; a book may become a resounding success and be optioned for a movie, or television series. This means adapting the original manuscript format to a new one matching the needs of the medium, in the form of screenwriting. Books are also often adapted into stage plays, so again, the format needs to be changed from that of prose, to playwriting. Few writers are capable of adapting a manuscript into a play or movie, so screen and playwrites are hired to do the job. Audiobooks and podcasts are seeing a huge jump in popularity, as people use downtime in their cars or other stagnant periods of their day to listen to stories and information that have been voice recorded. Again, it’s all about change and adaptation. Every time the medium of the story changes, the writer has to let go of the ego and work with, not against, it.

I recently came across an article on this subject that resonated with me; Blog Writing Tips-Be Willing To Adapt To Change, written by Justin Murphy. It’s short and to the point, but basically sums up how people can adapt to changes in a positive manner.

Treasures

Treasures

I might not love everything about the changes I’ve been forced to make over the years, but I’ve met some terrific people along the way, I’ve gained new experiences, and I’ve learned new skills. I figure that counts for quite a bit, since I can use all of it in my writing and stories. I’ve realized that writing, like life, is a path filled with all kinds of changes. I firmly believe that those who can master the art of change and adaptability will go further than those who cannot, so I try to learn from the wrong turns, the misses, and failures. As they say, Life is a journey, not a destination. As a beachcomer and shell collector, I can see the long stretch of sand ahead, but I look forward to stopping along the way to investigate the sea’s treasures. Some I’ll discard, while others I’ll tuck into my pocket to add to my growing collection.

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