Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Blessed Bovines of Blogging

"We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy." Howard Beale's "Mad as Hell" speech from the movie, Network.

This is how I feel about the chronic rhetoric attacking the blog waves regarding the face of today's publishing world. So many opinions, blame-pointing fingers, and the how's and why's publishing isn't like it used to be.

Enough already! Or in the words of Howard Beale, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. Might I suggest the real reason publishing has gone the way of Kodak film? It's not because digital self-publishing is going to be the new trend and that soon all books will be self-published...

It's because more and more people are NOT READING books. There. I said it. Excuses as to why publishers are closing are like those that have affected any other business. If no one is buying your product, then changes have to be made. In America reading has taken a back seat to video games, texting and the watching of television.


Yet the part that angers me the most are those going "indie" (better known as self-publishing) bashing and putting down the publishing world as if it killed itself. More and more blogs are featuring the reasons why self-pubbing is so much better than traditional publishing. They'll say that writers can skip the heartache of rejection if they self-publish. True. It's a direct route to seeing your name in lights. It's also a slippery slope to the devaluation of good writing.

Point to consider: Through traditional publishing, a writer's work is given an unvarnished edit by an editor. Yet, I have recently learned that even some larger NYC publishers have had lousy editors. But I'm willing to wager that those editors aren't maintained on the payroll for very long. And I know there are writers who think they know more than editors do and therefore find them needless.

Another point to consider: Read this article. Just the first few paragraphs, it's about Harper Lee. After reading it you'll then perhaps see the importance of not only good editing, but having a good agent as well.

Something else to think about: The Godfather. If you've seen the unedited version you'll recognize the importance of an editor. They are the people behind the scenes that help take the film to Oscar winning levels. Same goes for music recordings. After the artist spends his/her time in the studio, a sound engineer goes to work, and long before the artist enters that recording studio, a music arranger has played a hand in making the product better. And sure, critics will have at it once the movie or CD is out, but that's their job, not the editors, sound engineers or music arrangers. Some of the biggest grossing movies have had the worst reviews, and vice versa.

And another thing. Editors aren't there to hold your hand and tell you that you are a genius after they read your manuscript. Their function is to make the manuscript a better read, one that readers will want to buy again and again. A really great editor has studied writing and possess writerly credentials. They don't have a day job at the local hospital, legal clinic or the elementary school down the street. Writing IS their living. They are the guardian angels that take the soul of your work and escalate it.

Recently I received my first experience with this editor. Long story short, she mentioned wanting to show an example of what an editor does for her blog. I said to myself, "Self, volunteer your pages," thinking what the hell, free editing, I'm in. Thus, off went two pages of my WIP. Many know this editor better as an author, but there are some who don't realize that she edits as well as ghost writes. She is an all-around writer. And let me just say that I was a bit taken back when I received her remarks on my two pages. She took me to school! Hit nearly every single line indicating ways they could improve. She offered no words of encouragement and none of discouragement. It was a "Just the facts,ma'am," experience. After reading her remarks, I'll be honest, I wanted to barf. And then I told myself to GROW UP, sat down and followed her lead. I returned the pages to her. That's when she wrote back and said, "You nailed it!" I viewed that as a compliment.

She not only lifted my writing skills to a new level, but broadened my understanding of the importance of an editor.

Yes, the many going the indie route will say that they don't need an editor because they have a crit-group.But for those who don't have a crit-partner, or perhaps realize that sometimes crit-partners don't always have the skills of an editor, the self-pubbing route might deplete the self-esteem worse than the standard rejection letter, just saying...

One final point and then I'm done: I'm good with digital publishing. It saves trees. But I'm not good with the bashing of the traditional publishing model (digital or press), by those who believe that in the future all books will be self-published.

Nothing personal. Nothing against self-publishing. I'm merely offering something to think about without degrading anyone or the genre of their choice. For me it's about understanding all sides and using sound critical thinking before drawing any conclusions.

Lastly, this is my last blog...Not! School begins in two weeks - things will slow down in my blogoshpere.


Erica Orloff said...

I consider my blog (1200+ posts) a love letter to craft. Editors, writers, dabblers, career writers . . . I consider myself, as an editor, the one who will tell you that you can do it. And by "it" I mean elevate your work to whatever it is your next level is. If you put your two scenes, before and after, side by side, it's ALMOST not recognizable . . . but I didn't do that. YOU did by your embodying the traits of a true writer--perseverance, drive, OPENNESS . . ..

I love my crit group. They are pretty brilliant. But I also know that in whatever circles you swim, the Peter Principle can take effect. That sometimes you have to lift off the band-aid, pick at the scab a bit, shake things up, go outside the comfort zone.

As for the death knell of print . . . I fall firmly in the camp that it is when small, indie, or electronic presses MIMIC the process of professionalism that you will see some neat things happen. I'm for saving tress. I love my Kindle. But I still have too many superb books (!!!) to read before I'm likely to spend time browsing books self-pubbed beyond curiosity. And when a few become buzz-worthy? Then sure. But like I said, too many masterpieces out there. And as you posted . . . Limited time.

I think what you did was scary. I sometimes wonder what most writers would do in my crit group or with an edit by me or JVZ. My guess is some don't have the stomach for it. LOL!

Kath Calarco said...

Erica, your blog truly is as you say - "love letter to the craft." Sometimes I feel that it's my school away from school. I've always learned something there.

I understand your point regarding indies, e-presses and small pubs mimicking the professional process. Writers should consider when weighing their options whether they just want to see their name in print, or experience growth.

And YES it took guts to hand over my pages for your editing expertise, but you know how I am - "jump in feet first." It's the only way I can overcome my fears and phobias. Over-thinking (something I used to do) just doesn't work for me anymore.

Natasha Fondren said...

I get sick of both sides of it, honestly. Of course, I'm a Libra, and I fully intend to be diversified into both worlds. At this point, I think small publishers and e-publishers are the ones who are becoming unneeded, not NY publishers. At that point, hire your own editor; a good editor is worth gold, but not 75% of your profits forever and ever.

I love good editors--ADORE them. I'm not against them in the slightest. However, I'm way too easily influenced and I totally write to please, which is a dangerous thing. So in a way, the fact that I've only had editing here or there has worked out well. And, oddly, one of my pubs just said that of all the writers she knows and worked with, I've improved the most. And that's largely without editing or crit groups.

But... for example, Erica, ages ago, and she's probably forgotten by now, LOL, has offered to crit a chapter of mine. And I'm totally there, but I'm saving it up until I can't figure out how to improve on my own. I just haven't gotten there yet. My mistakes are quite obvious. :D So I'm ever open to the possibility of joining a crit group or getting a crit partner. Just not yet.

You know me: I believe "each to their own path."

Kath Calarco said...

Love the Libra logic. :-)

Disclosure: My blog piece was partly motivated by the chronic bashing by the self-pubbed of the traditional publisher, as well as their product. I came under personal attack at a blog for the mere mention that I love literary fic and poetry. Back handed as the blogger's comment was, it was implied that lit.fic and poetry are self-indulgent. Seriously. Slapped me in the face, it did. I write poetry and at times, lit fic (when my brain is in the zone, lol). I seethed, calmed, and then wrote this blog.

You know the importance of viewing every side of the beast. Wish more did. Critical thinking can be lost on the desperate. That said, I think we're going to see many writers suffer heartbreaks bigger than rejection. And that's sad. The new digital way of publishing makes it easy to put work out for all to read, but what saddens me is that lack of quality interprets into lack of sales. Not that I've researched this - just a guess based on people I've know who have paid upfront money to places like IUniverse in order to see their name in print. They ended up in the red because they only had so many friends and relatives to buy their books. And even though digital has next to no overhead, lack of sales can be SO devastating, I think.

I fear for the craft, for the art of writing, and for the hearts of those with high hopes.