This is really a very good article (okay, I'm biased, I run a small press!) about indie presses and what they can offer a writer. Useful!
And interestingly, Galley Beggar Press were the small press who took on 'A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing' which seems to be winning everything at the moment. Good on them for taking a risk :-) I believe they're still taking submissions, but understandably, are now getting swamped.
Thanks for posting this. It's good to get a wide range of viewpoints on a subject I just can't pin down.
I thought this was good:
“Let me try to go down to earth, with some practicalities. Nowadays, it’s easy to buy editorial services, and cover designers – but I would argue that those offered by a good publisher are different and, to be blunt, better. I don’t want to criticise the work of people who offer professional manuscript assessments. Not least because, I’m one of those people. I find this kind of editorial work rewarding and I’m often delighted with the way a client will improve their work following my suggestions. But there are important differences between the work I do for clients and the work I do for authors. Ultimately, I’m paid by the client and can only push my advice so far.”
Alan, it is hard to work out what’s going on in publishing. The above is probably a good example. I went on a copy-editing course last year. Nearly everyone else there was an editor at a traditional publisher. They were all young and very, very good. They not only did they have pin-point editing skills, they also had an editor’s instinct for when something is out of place or the wording not right, etc. I’ve complained on this site before about manuscript agencies that call their readers ‘editors’ when in fact most are writers without professional editing experience. Which doesn’t mean you can’t get a useful report from an agency but it won’t be an editor’s report.
However, the waters are muddied somewhat by the fact that even traditional publishers can put out badly edited books. Presumably, this is down to cost-cutting; but it might also be because some editors lose concentration when working on books they don’t really respect.
I think in the new world of book production, authors have to be more self-determined. We have a long history of handing over responsibility for everything other than writing to a publisher. Time perhaps to wake up to the fact there are no longer any such simple options!
“While you’re on his site, I’d also recommend having a scan of one of his books’ opening chapters. Draw your own conclusions about the quality control and editorial services offered by conventional publishers. I say “draw your own conclusions” because I am a publisher, and, as you can probably guess, my opinion is hopelessly biased.”
Below are the first few paras from the first book I saw on Konrath’s site:
Edited by Terry Edge at 16:21:00 on 21 July 2014
There were four black and whites already at the 7-Eleven when I arrived. Several people had gathered in the parking lot behind the yellow police tape, huddling close for protection against the freezing Chicago rain.
They weren’t there for Slurpees.
I parked my 1986 Nova on the street and hung my star around my neck on a cord. The radio was full of chatter about “the lasagna on Monroe and Dearborn,” so I knew this was going to be an ugly one. I got out of the car.
It was cold, too cold for October. I wore a three-quarter-length London Fog trench coat over my blue Armani blazer and a gray skirt. The coat was the only one I had that fit over the blazer’s oversized shoulders, which left my legs exposed to the elements.
Freezing was the curse of the fashion savvy.
Okay, I don’t think this is very well written but I’m not sure it’s bad enough to put off most of his likely readers. Here are a few views I have:
People, especially if they’re strangers, don’t ‘huddle together’ even in freezing rain.
His one-liners (‘Slurpees’ and ‘fashion savvy’) aren’t very funny and are character counter-productive, in that I think he’s trying to tell us she’s smart but in fact is showing her as lame.
There are two many info references she simply wouldn’t make to herself: ‘Chicago’, ‘1986 Nova’, the clothes descriptions. Yes, it’s the writer’s job to tell us where we are and what people look like but if you do it as crudely as this, the reader becomes subconsciously aware that the writer is controlling his character too much, therefore that she probably won’t live and breathe like a real person. Simply put, if she’s more concerned with musing over her car and clothes in the face of a gruesome crime scene, what kind of cop is she? (We don’t know because the author is probably unaware he’s raising this question in the first place.)
The clothes stuff is confusing anyway. Why hasn’t she got a coat that’s long enough?
He puts ‘lasagna . . . ‘ etc in quotes, i.e. tells us this is what the radio is actually saying. But ‘lasagna’ is only something the police would use with each other; no radio show would be that insensitive.
Edited by Terry Edge at 16:20:00 on 21 July 2014
Totally agree with Terry here - Alan, it is hard work to figure out what's going on in publishing (and I'm even *kind of* on the edges of it!). But I did write about it a little on another thread - Anne's 'Yay, a publishing offer, but what now?' I think it's a lot about relationships and the relationship between the writer and the editor (and then also the editor and the rest of the staff in the publishing house). Because people who run small presses tend to do all the jobs in the office (so to speak) so this allows them to work with an author on a more direct (and perhaps more honest?) basis, and not have to answer to, say, the accountants who want to know what the book's sales projections will be... etc.
Anyway... Joe Konrath's site looked interesting. I'm afraid that the genres he writes in aren't really *my genres* (although I do think that good storytelling can be found in all genres and I'm very interested in the story arc). From the extract you copied out here Terrry I have to say that I'm not sure I would want to continue on and fully commit, as a reader, to the story. But good luck to him, I completely admire his hard work.
I think you are very kind to that extract of Konrath (I agree with your comments). I would never in a hundred years read any stuff like that. It is an affected, superficial, factory assembly-line product. I doubt it is the result of hard work.
But I am being over-critical (
). It's just not my thing.
I am on my 4th year now with my wip. And to be honest, self-pubbing is having less appeal, not more. What kind of reader looks at Amazon etc for freebies, 99 pence offerings, and other cut-price bargains? Somehow, I think those people are not looking for a challenging read and I don't think that's my market. And if I did self-pub, I would price my book at the top end - I don't care about limiting sales.
Because it's hard work, I'm going to delay committing myself - again. I can improve my writing, and need to improve. That is my focus.
Alan - focussing on improving your own writing is absolutely the way to go. The creative writing bit is truly the most enriching part (and it's the one thing you have absolute control over - an editor may well tweak or enhance it, but the idea, the story, the first draft is all yours); after that your work must simply go out into the world and find its own path. (You'll be helping it along a bit of course and taking important decisions about if/when/how to publish, but once it's 'out there' - in whatever form - the reception it gets is out of your control!) I'm going to be a bit cheeky here and quote from a blog post that I wrote a while ago about 'The Creative Process'. Feel free to have a read or not, as you wish :-) Keep us posted with your improvement.
My ego cares more about the end result of my creativity rather than the process of creativity itself. Its voice is strengthened by plenty of voices in society wondering aloud if the work is worthwhile, if a price can be put to it… if it is good?
It does not matter. Really, it does not, because the work is now finished and it has begun its own journey, over which the creator has no control. The important thing is to create, for the creative process itself enriches the soul and causes it to fly…
“I think you are very kind to that extract of Konrath (I agree with your comments). I would never in a hundred years read any stuff like that. It is an affected, superficial, factory assembly-line product. I doubt it is the result of hard work.”
Me neither. I hate that kind of off-the-top-of-the-head derivative crap. As for hard work . . . well, a lot of commercial writers work hard in terms of putting in the hours, producing the wordage, learning about the business, etc. What they perhaps don’t work so hard at is the creative element. But then that requires a different kind of work. And, yes, what a lot of writers who like to call themselves creative call ‘work’ others might suspect to be snacking, kipping, day-time TV watching, unnecessary house cleaning, etc.
“I am on my 4th year now with my wip. And to be honest, self-pubbing is having less appeal, not more. What kind of reader looks at Amazon etc for freebies, 99 pence offerings, and other cut-price bargains? Somehow, I think those people are not looking for a challenging read and I don't think that's my market. And if I did self-pub, I would price my book at the top end - I don't care about limiting sales.”
I’m not yet in a position to say you’re wrong about this, in that I haven’t yet met my content target in terms of what I’m putting up for self-publishing and which I believe could meet some kind of trigger point. That, and working with a very media-savvy friend to see if there are ways to promote my work without compromising my principles. However, in amongst the freebie-hunters, I do believe there are plenty of people looking for something of substance to read. You and I are no doubt those sorts of people. When I was young, it was possible to sift through the local library and find the good stuff. Given there aren’t really libraries any more, and mainstream publishers are largely putting out crap, I suspect serious readers have to trawl through Amazon to find it.
And there are shades of grey here. For instance, I’ve done pretty well with story sales but I’m acutely aware that I could probably do even better if I ‘niched’ my writing more; stopped simply writing whatever the hell I feel like writing. Because in doing that, you’re at the mercy of editors’ moods, timings, intelligence, experience, etc. Rather than making it easy for them to hit their ‘market’ buttons. On the other hand, sticking to your principles can be rewarding. For instance, I wrote a story some time ago called ‘The Woman Who Could Choose the Stars’. It’s ambitious in one sense in that while it’s ostensibly Sci-Fi, it’s actually a character study. Not only that, but it’s a study of an unusual person: highly intelligent but who disguises it for her own ends. Anyway, it got some appreciative rejections to the point I had decided it was not ‘market’ enough. Nevertheless, I kept sending it out and recently an editor ‘got’ it. It’s appearing in the next issue of Albedo One. This is an Irish Spec. Fic. magazine that doesn’t pay that well but is highly respected. The last time I had a story in it, I received loads more reviews than I’ve ever had, even for stories in top magazines. So, while that story won’t make me much money, I’m really, really pleased it’s going to be read by some serious readers.
“Because it's hard work, I'm going to delay committing myself - again. I can improve my writing, and need to improve. That is my focus.”
I know I’ve said this before, but a valuable element to improving your writing can be the submission process. If you haven’t already considered it, I’d highly recommend trying short fiction – not only because it improves your skills but because you can submit stories and get some success and/or feed-back from publishers.
If you haven’t already considered it, I’d highly recommend trying short fiction – not only because it improves your skills but because you can submit stories and get some success and/or feed-back from publishers
I appreciate your view, Terry, but is it not the case that shorts are your bread and butter? It is easy for you to suggest this, because you have had success.
BUT, my brain does not work on small-scale projects. If I wrote a short. it would not have a heart, because my heart wouldn't be in it. It would, in reality, be a waste of my time and effort.
My wip has just gone past 122k. And I love it. I am obsessed with it. It's already big and ambitious, and it'll likely get bigger still before I call it a day. Even today - a wonderfully productive day - I added about 500 words to my chapter two. Right now I feel proud of what I've done. I've added extra, and much-needed nuance to a relationship prior to an assault. I've also exchanged okay words with more striking ones.
I really don't mind others saying I'm going along the wrong path, because ...
The important thing is to create, for the creative process itself enriches the soul and causes it to fly…
And it does. These are Teika's words, and in my case I would add something about scale. I think I will write them down on a post-it, then stick it on my monitor.
Alan, fair enough. You have to go with what you're passionate about.
For the record, I started out writing novels, YA mostly. I had no idea, other than instinctive, how to do it. My first editor taught me how technically through the process of working with her on the first of my books she published. I didn't get fed up with writing novels as such, but I did get fed up with having them turned down for increasingly spurious (i.e. commercial) reasons. Much as I loved writing them, I guess I got fed up with having editors say they loved them but their sales teams didn't.
I decided to start again, sort of, in SF. I applied to the Odyssey Workshop which meant writing two short stories. I found I really enjoyed it. Then I wrote six more in the workshop and loved it even more. Also, I learned that in Spec. Fic. there are a lot of short fiction markets. So, it seemed an obvious way to go, and one which avoided those dreaded committees.
I know you didn't quite mean it, but I'd contest that success with shorts was or is easy. I was sending out about 20 stories constantly for 18 months, with over 100 rejections before I sold one. And that was with a pretty good cover letter, e.g. novels published, attended Odyssey, etc. I have around 40 out there now.
I wasn't suggesting it primarily from the standpoint of getting success. I suspect you won't believe this, and I say this with my tutoring hat on, but writing short fiction will improve just about any writer's novels too. It's like practice but more so because you get the chance to develop multiple skills in voice, style, characterisation, tense, etc.
And with my editor's hat on, this might not be a popular thing to say but one of the most common faults I see with writers working on novels is that they just don't have the range of skills needed to fully realise the story they're trying to tell.
Alan - I'm so pleased to know that my words were useful :-) I think it's really great that your work is big and ambitious. Absolutely go for it! It sounds like you're really 'in the zone' with your WIP at the moment, so go with the flow.
However, as I'm sure you're aware, once it's done you may want to take a breather and leave it in a drawer for a bit so that you get some distance from it so that you can come to it with fresh eyes for the purely objective part (aka the editing). In that time of 'distance' you could write all sorts of things, and as Terry says, short fiction may be a good (and useful) way to go.
Keep us posted with your progress!