Monday, November 26, 2012

Publishing: An Industry in Transition

Publishing: An Industry in Transition - Options for the new author, the seasoned author, or the author in flux.

The publishing industry is an industry exploding into a new era. Traditional houses are e-publishing, the paper method of editing has shifted to track changes, and their slush piles are as tall as skyscrapers. Vanity presses are popping up everywhere and self publishing has become the fastest way to get your book out there. Carefully consider if  the fastest is always the best.

Change can be good. Too much change happening too quickly sometimes makes people uncomfortable. But change has a tendency to rock you out of your comfort zone. We need shaking up once in awhile. Innovation brings progress, and yet sometimes good things are lost in the transition. Eventually some of those things are resurrected, often out of need. I have faith that good editing will be one of those things.

For example, if any of you have downloaded self published books lately perhaps you already know what I’m talking about. Self publishing is no excuse for skipping the editing or formatting process. It breaks my heart to read a well thought out plot with good characterization and have to wade through bad spelling, poor dialogue, and worse grammar. So much failed potential. I know it’s not me just being a editorial snob. Too many readers are complaining. Every book out there has a mistake or two, and I think we all can overlook that. The ones I’m referring to are the ones we can’t finish because they’re too difficult to wade through. The misplaced modifiers and run on sentences make it impossible decipher what the author’s intention.

Some of you know I’m an editor who is also an author. What that means is that I’ve learned to value good critique partners and my editors more than death by chocolate. Even though my job as an editor with The Wild Rose Press involves each step in the editing process, what I enjoy most is the content editing. You know, content editing is that part where the editor makes brilliant, insightful suggestions about your story which help take your book to the next level. (GRIN. I always strive  to be that editor.) You, the author,  recognize the value of those suggestions because they’re the ones that make you slap a hand to your forehead and ask yourself why you didn’t think of them first. In the time I’ve been involved as an insider with the publishing industry, I’ve been fortunate to work with excellent editors like that.

When I first started writing, I took classes, attended seminars, joined writer’s groups, and talked to successful authors to find out about the process of getting a book published.  I finished writing a book. That was the first step. But when I decided to publish (which is very different from deciding to write) I was floored by the process. (That was when New York publishing houses were my only option.) Now the possibilities are endless, almost too many to consider. No matter what direction you choose for your work, I’d like to make a suggestion: Don’t skimp on the editing. Find a critique partner who challenges you to do your best. Listen,  weigh every suggestion, and then decide what’s best for your story.

I  also read reviews to see what readers like and what they object to. (Not just mine, either. Reviewers can be insightful.) You know—like the too stupid to live heroine or the book that never answers a crucial question. Yes, and always remember you can’t please everyone. Personally, I like to know I’ve tried to address every plausible concern in each book I work on. Self edit. Don’t wait for your critique partner to point out the obvious. Every author should also be their own editor. (Warning: Wait until you’ve completed the first draft. You can self edit your book to death and never finish it.)

Besides finding a critique partner and an editor, do your homework. Self publishing comes in many shades of gray. It isn’t the only new option out there. Different books may need different venues. Does a mystery belong with a romance press? Does a memoire belong with a mystery press? Can an erotic press publish your YA? Maybe, but not as effectively as the correct venue.  

What are those venues? The traditional agent to book publisher is another method. The advantage is obvious. Another are vanity presses which can do it all for you for a price. There are also small presses which provide editing and distribution, some promotion. The new craze, self publishing through the online sites. It is different from distributor to distributor. B&N has one guideline for formatting—iBook another. Now there are also companies that, for a fee, will format your work and offer covers and distribution to the various ebook sites.

Many small presses and e-publishers provide excellent services for the new author as well as for the experienced author, too. They provide a kinder, gentler atmosphere for the newbie to navigate within the publication world and endless support for the more experienced author who doesn’t want to take the time to learn how to format, where to shop for covers, or how to distribute her books. After all, we all know the best promotion is writing the next book.

Here at TWRP, you have a group of authors and professionals who support you and share tips for writing and promoting. They have your back when you need it and are your greatest advocates when you succeed. Consider your options carefully.


LaVerne Clark said...

LOVE this post. Thank you :) These are all very valid points and the reasons why I don't ever want to self-publish. I love that relationship between author and editor and the security of knowing the manuscript is good or it would never have been contracted in the first place.

By the way, I think editors deserve a very special place in Heaven for the work they do! You're all saints! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm nodding my head vigorously while reading this post. When I read I want a flawlessly written book that yanks me into the story. I don't want to stumble over mistakes that yank me back out. As a TWRP author, I'm so grateful your excellent editors.

Jane Drager said...

So true. Publishing is in flux. TWRP editors are wonderful. I say that because I want to be the best I can be, and I know they will be there to help.