Thursday, October 25, 2012

Come, New Author. I Have Some Tablets For You.

I've been freelance editing and ghostwriting long enough to have reached some epiphanies. They may not be earth-shattering to some, but more than a handful of people out there have plopped out a book and are stumbling over themselves to upload it for sale. I'm more than a bit conservative, super-protective of my brand, and hyper-aware of the importance of quality writing before going "live" in a cyber-environment that often seems like an annoying in-law: quick to judge and never seems to go away. Being a book reviewer has only enhanced these commandments I believe everyone who has typed the end punctuation on the final page of that first book should memorize.

I. Thou Shalt Know Your Market

Vomiting out a long series of subsections found in a Barnes and Noble store is akin to tossing crumpled manuscript pages at the brick and mortar and praying it will stick. Pick one. If you're good by any other standard than your mother and the creepy guy at the 7-11 who loves everything about you, pick two. Don't write what you haven't read since fifth grade.

II. Thou Shalt Know The Industry

We're not talking the kind of insider knowledge that would get the Romance Writers of America yearly convention buzzing about when the hottest, long-haired male editor arrived (and we romancies know who THAT is, don't we?) Gems like that take years of immersion. Please know what an editor does. We will not rewrite your entire book for you unless you pay us, handsomely, for the title Book Doctor because you have a bleeder and your opening sentence has flat lined. For this much hemorrhaging, we could write our own books.

III. Thou Shalt Chill

Traditional New York publishing notwithstanding, writing and publishing a book is still glacial. Laborious. Exhausting. The process is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a short cut or rush the process and you'll end up in the dirt beside the trail with mud-caked knees because you forgot to tie your laces. Piss out a novel in one month and expect it to turn 50 Shades of successful? Yeah, that's gonna happen.

IV. Thou Shalt Get Your Book Professionally Edited

Both content and line edited. Then think about doing it again. Nothing steams me more than swiping to the next page in my Nook and finding errors that a fourth grader could have found. It's disrespectful to your reader's time and pocketbook and the faith they placed in you to deliver a flawless story. Shame on you if you overlook this commandment.

V. Thou Shalt Recognize E.L. James As The Exception

Debate the quality (and we have here) of Ms. James's newly-minted empire, but repeat after me: I. Will. Not. Get. Rich. Is it okay to dream? Sure. But writing is not the path to fame. Most famous writers would probably prefer not to be famous outside of their royalty checks. We are overwhelmingly introverts and write because we have to and we love to, not because it will land us on the cover of USA Today or on a Hollywood set overseeing the film version of our book.

What are some other commandments writers should know before self-publishing or submitting to publishing houses or agents?


Barbara Martin said...

Excellent post. Something every writer should aspire to.

the walking man said...

VI. If you don't have faith in the shit you are submitting, why should anyone else? Do not hold back your "Best Work" Especially when submitting poetry...don't send in something you just want to see if it has legs or nto..that is disrespectful to your self.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Barbara...great to hear from you again :)

@WM...Brilliant. So true.

VI. Thou Shalt Not Hold Back

Charles Gramlich said...

Absolutely on all counts. I keep hoping for riches, though. But indeed, NOT fame. Couldn't handle that .