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Ten Differences Between a Good Writer and a Bad Writer

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Old 03-07-2011, 07:16 AM
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Old 03-07-2011, 07:24 AM
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The biggest difference between a good writer and a bad writer is titles sold. That's how the publishers gauge it.
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Old 03-07-2011, 08:05 AM
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There are so many ways to measure these things. One reader's bad book or author is another's favorite.
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Old 03-07-2011, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
The biggest difference between a good writer and a bad writer is titles sold. That's how the publishers gauge it.
The higher up the best-sellers lists, the worse the writing. That's how the pretentious gauge it.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
The higher up the best-sellers lists, the worse the writing. That's how the pretentious gauge it.
Twilight.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:34 AM
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:09 AM
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Good authors are not always good writers? What exactly is a good author if not a good writer? Prolific, maybe?

A good story, or a story that could have been good, can easily be screwed up by bad writing. Mass appeal to a market niche is not the mark of a good writer or even a good storyteller when you consider the market they write to.

I know I pick on S. Meyer and her ilk, easy targets, but there is no quality to her work. It's fantasy land for the tweens and romance novel fanatics. It has a market it sells to and it makes big money. That's all it does and nothing more. She hit the high fastball.

Recently I read Water for Elephants. I enjoyed the story. It was cliched in places and it ended as most would hope. But it was told well in the writing. Plenty of writers, bestsellers included, repeat themselves with only marginal charater changes and changes of locales. You know what you are getting before you open a James Bond novel but the character and action have a familiar appeal. What you enjoy is the story and that fact that 007 will win out in the end.

Are these writings of high caliber literature? No, they are not. So what makes them good writers? Nothing does. They are good storytellers with the sense and the ability to tell their stories in a way that appeals to their reader. That's not to say what they do is easy or simple. They rely on their template that has proven successful for them. Mass production is not limited to Detroit steel and plastic.

There is one writer on the market that has over 170 million books sold worldwide. I have read several of them and have yet to find one gem of literature in a single one. He is neither a good writer nor a bad writer. He has a character readers like and a storyline that hits its intended market. It's repitition of what has proven to be successful. Good storytelling.

Of course all of what I have posted here could turn out to be hogwash the day S. Meyer makes her Nobel exceptance speech.
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:58 PM
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:21 AM
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Im not going to write it all out again, but see my latest blog entry on the subject of the quality of a book.

Red Lorry's Journey 7th March
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
the day S. Meyer makes her Nobel exceptance speech.
BRILLIANT as ever!
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Redlorry View Post
Im not going to write it all out again, but see my latest blog entry on the subject of the quality of a book.

Red Lorry's Journey 7th March
Haha. That looks like a shameless self plug to me. And now you've mentioned it, I'll have to go look. At some point...
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:01 AM
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CandraH - It wasn't actually, but I can see how it looks like that. I tried re-writing what I put on my blog a couple of times, but gave up in the end and took the lazy option.
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:03 AM
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No worries. I was joking with you. Got your blog up on another page and will be heading off for a nosey shortly.
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Domenic View Post
Some are good story teller, but bad writers. Some are good writers, but bad story tellers.
There are some well know authors who don't write very well, but they have great stories. And other well known authors write well, but have bad stories.

Sammual Clemmens was a good story teller, and very bad writer...I know, I read his work every year in Virigina City Nevada. When he became Mark Twain, he was a great story teller, and a great writer. When his wife died, he became an angry writer, and poor story teller.

Agents look for good writers, and story tellers. In todays market, one has to be both...if one is not, there is always Publish America, or some small ebook (sic) publisher. You seem to not like published writers?
I like published writers if they write well and tell a good story. But just because someone is published that doesn't atuomatically make them a good writer. As far as the ebook route is concerned I find that absolutely acceptable.

Why should a writer wait inteminably for some agent to suddenly discover them or decide they should be published when the writer has the means to publish themselves? Volume? Money? Notoriety? It's a free market and if the writer feels that the ebook or whatever other means is their preference they should pursue it. Nothing wrong with self promotion and there is the chance their ebook could take off and result in them getting a publishing contract. It happens more and more as the offshoot of the publishing industry grows with each passing day.

Poe self published, E.B. White self published. Both dam fine writers still read to this day. There are folks on this forum that have ebooks and they are fine writers telling good stories. I know, I've read a few.

Really I don't have a bone of contention with the publishing industry. I would like to be under contract someday and with some luck I might. But I don't intend to wait till hell freezes over for it to happen. I will go the ebook route without a second thought. My worry is not about rejection...it's worrying how long I have to wait to get rejected. Either they want the work or they don't. I don't intend to sit on my keyboard until that decision is made. We make our own "luck" in this world.
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Old 03-09-2011, 09:59 AM
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Old 03-09-2011, 10:19 AM
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There's a reason I put "luck" in quotes. That dumb ass waited ten years to get a book deal...must have been one bang up query letter after another. The Lotto is being read.

What's your issue, outside of some elitist affectation with being published in New York, with ebooks or other venues of publication? If it's not fit for the New Yorker it's tripe? Is that it? That's your only gauge for good writing?

I don't mean to be a prick, not that I give a shit, but the big time publishers can sit on their asses and sneer down on the rest all they want. In the end the little nooks and crannies will prevail on as large a scale as ever was. It is inevitable. The growth boom bears that out. Times change and with it so do the tastes of readers and how they get the work they want. The competition is healthy for all. It has been long overdue.


"Have you hugged your Kindle today?" It's gonna be a hot selling bumper sticker.
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Old 03-09-2011, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
Poe self published, E.B. White self published.
Sure. But if they hadn't ended up in the hands of major publishing houses, we'd all be saying "Edgar Allen... who?"

Maybe one day self-publishing will be the future. I think we should all be praying it never is, because when the establishment collapses and self-publishing is the only way to get out there, the market will be so fragmented that earning money for writing will be a thing of the past.

Domenic hads a very good point. Self publishing can be (let's exclude all current company for the sake of keeping the peace) the easy way into print for the lazy, the impatient and the dumb.

How many times have we seen young writers boasting about 'being published' because their book is now available via PublishAmerica, when the only person who'll ever buy a copy is mommy? How many self-publish without any thoughts of selling after? How many are doomed to failure? 99.9%? More?

The holy grail for us as writers is to engage a hot agent, get the coveted 3 book deal with a major publishing house, with a big advance, sell the movie rights...

It's not easy. That's why too many people don't bother. Not because of all the usual excuses, about rights, control, blah, blah... it's hard work, and it's tough because you're up against other writers who can write at least as well as you can, and who want it at least as bad as you do. People win, and people lose.

Far easier to take the soft option.

If you're serious about self-publishing, try this. Forget Lulu and all the rest. Forget money. Turn your book into a PDF, email it to everyone you know, and ask them to email it to everyone they know. Hassle people on forums to take a free copy. Put it on CD's and post copies through people's doors. Leave copies in bars. Get yourself a website. Tweet. Blog. Do anything to get it out there.

If a couple of thousand people get to read it, and like it, chances are you'll create enough of a buzz to make a major publisher sit up and take notice.
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:04 PM
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And if they hadn't taken the self published route it would not have ended as it did. That's the point. Those two "lazy, impatient, dumbasses took the initiative and won out. The opportunity is there for everyone. No one knows for sure who will and who won't hit the mark but waiting for some feckless fatass agent to get you on the bottom of the pile is a piss poor way to go about it. At least if you take the book by the horns and run with it you give yourself the chance, the opportunity to maybe hit it big with a publishing contract as a result of your ebook getting noticed.

Yeah, I've heard the self published proclaim they are a published author and it makes me cringe. I've had articles published in the past. Does it make me a published author? No, I don't believe it does. It simply makes me a published writer of minor hometown acclaim with nothing to show for it except for a smile and some self gratification. A free coffee...once.

The net makes it a sight easier to reach the masses than handing your book out at bake sales and street corners. It's hard if you're serious enough to tackle the self promotion. But if you persevere and if you take every avenue at your disposal you just might accomplish your goal.

I don't have an issue with the traditional publishing route. My issue is with those that eschew the alternatives as if they were less worthy of being pursued. They are not. The market, be it big or small, will provide the feedback you seek. It can be ignored at ones peril or enjoyed with ones success.

That "buzz" as you say is what many hope for and if it comes its onward and upward to the 3 book deal and movie rights. The aspiring writer can chase both the traditional and the non traditional avenues of publication. Why limit it to one or another? Cover all the bases as best you can with more than one piece of work.

You succeed or fail on you own merits, your own efforts. Being proactive with your ambitions is a good thing.

I would hate to see the old guard perish. It is ultimately the holy grail of writing and anyone with any sense knows that. But we live at the speed of light. The flicker of the monitor. The Kindle, the ebook, the ipod and all other forms of communication we get our hands, eyes and ears on.


Some lady, recently self published, has sold over 400k copies of her work and is now signed to a major publishing contract. Lightning in the bottle. Would it have happened had she only submitted her work to a publisher? Who knows? But we do know that she succeeded without them. It's the rarity but evidently her work struck a chord with readers and she self promoted her ass off. It got her noticed.

To me, and countless others, it's worth the effort.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:38 PM
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
The biggest difference between a good writer and a bad writer is titles sold. That's how the publishers gauge it.
This does not apply when we are looking at unpublished writers. I can tell if a fiction writer is good or not by looking at the first page. If the story is "told" rather than "shown," or if there is a surfeit of mood-setting imagery without any action, I know right away that the writer is not a professional; or rather, that his or her style needs a considerable amount of polishing.

Remember that there is very little space at the very apex of the "published author" totem pole in terms of sales, and there are far more writers farther down. I haven't seen anything like this myself, but if somebody were to make a graph with sales on the X axis and the number of writers who sell X# books on the Y axis, it would probably look like the right side of a bell curve. In other words, the higher the number of sales, the fewer the number of authors, but the "mid-range" will be very thick, almost as thick as the lower end of the scale.

From this, one could conclude that while there are very few J.K. Rowlings, John Grishams, Stephen Kings, Stephanie Meyers, and Tom Clancys in this world, there will be almost as many Cormac MacCarthys or Neal Stephensons as there are "Joe Schmoe who went to Lulus."

Small-press and specialty publishers who cannot afford Stephen King's multi-million dollar advances have to "settle" for a large number of writers whose sales might not be stratospheric, but certainly are profitable.

Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
The higher up the best-sellers lists, the worse the writing. That's how the pretentious gauge it.
Well, the better the sales, the more major publishers start to view the work as "products" that need to be managed, rather than as works of art that need to be refined. While the writer's name might be on the cover, there are a lot of cooks in that kitchen, spoiling that soup. It's not all the authors' faults.
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Old 03-11-2011, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Domenic View Post
I understand what you are saying Gaines...and yes, I know how you, and many other writers feel. Many times I havehad the same feelings. I won't take the easy way to being published...it won't take me to where I want to be. Some have self published, and down the road have been picked up by a publisher. Most publishers in the U.S.A., do a 5,000 to 7,000 run...then they put the rights in a draw, and that is where the book dies.
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The easy way? Seriously, what makes it look easy?


There is no easy way to being published. There are no short cuts. There is no back door. There are just a handfull of good publishers...anything less, and a writer may as well toss his/her work in a dumster. I have been writing for sixteen years. Will I land a deal with a New York Publisher? I don't know. It's the path I started out on...I may die on it, but I will not give up on myself.(that is not to say you have.)

Domenic
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It's good you feel that strongly about your writing and I hope it pans out but don't just disregard the other options simply because you can't start off being Pope.
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Originally Posted by Another Editor View Post
This does not apply when we are looking at unpublished writers. I can tell if a fiction writer is good or not by looking at the first page. If the story is "told" rather than "shown," or if there is a surfeit of mood-setting imagery without any action, I know right away that the writer is not a professional; or rather, that his or her style needs a considerable amount of polishing.
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Starting all novels with action is not a measure of quality in the least. Readers have become so innundated with pulp where the first two pages are nothing more than murder and mayhem that they won't read beyond it if the entrails aren't hanging from the cover.
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Remember that there is very little space at the very apex of the "published author" totem pole in terms of sales, and there are far more writers farther down. I haven't seen anything like this myself, but if somebody were to make a graph with sales on the X axis and the number of writers who sell X# books on the Y axis, it would probably look like the right side of a bell curve. In other words, the higher the number of sales, the fewer the number of authors, but the "mid-range" will be very thick, almost as thick as the lower end of the scale.
**************************
These authors have an established readership, a market niche the publishers can bank on. They know that author A will sell so many books and that author B will sell so many books. The print accordingly and if they don't they have no reason to lament slow sales and fat inventories eating up their bottom line. Anyone in business where mass production is involved should have some idea of the market they are selling to and be able to adjust to changing technologies that are proven profitable.
*************************
From this, one could conclude that while there are very few J.K. Rowlings, John Grishams, Stephen Kings, Stephanie Meyers, and Tom Clancys in this world, there will be almost as many Cormac MacCarthys or Neal Stephensons as there are "Joe Schmoe who went to Lulus."
**************************

These writers have stories that sell. That's the criteria. Editors can polish the turds worth the shine. As for the Joe Schmoe types, well they are on their own from top to bottom. That's the risk they take and high yield involves high risk. It is a merciless business for them.
************************

Small-press and specialty publishers who cannot afford Stephen King's multi-million dollar advances have to "settle" for a large number of writers whose sales might not be stratospheric, but certainly are profitable.
************************
Every summer a friend of mine and his wife went on week long vacation to the diamond field in Arkansas. They did this religiously for fifteen or so years. They found small chips and stones poor in quality year after year. They kept going back. One day while they were digging his wife let out a scream. When the stone was finally cut and polished it was estimated to be worth a little over 80k. The self published are looking for that stone.
*******************

Well, the better the sales, the more major publishers start to view the work as "products" that need to be managed, rather than as works of art that need to be refined. While the writer's name might be ont he cover, there are a lot of cooks in that kitchen, spoiling that soup. it's not all the authors' faults.
*******************
If the author is producing work better written than the tamperings of the cooks why the fuck are the cooks getting involved? Who is the idiot in charge of that cluster fuck? If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:08 PM
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It all depends on the individual reader
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Old 03-14-2011, 04:47 AM
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Everyone (or rather, 90%) of writers are bad, for sure - just look at what Harold Bloom says.

Okay, the point I'm trying to make is that it's subjective. You might think Blood Meridian is the best Western novel in existence, and that Rowling and King are utter rubbish, as Bloom does. But even when you're one of the most respected literary critiques, literature is still an arguable subject nonetheless.
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Old 03-15-2011, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
Starting all novels with action is not a measure of quality in the least. Readers have become so innundated with pulp where the first two pages are nothing more than murder and mayhem that they won't read beyond it if the entrails aren't hanging from the cover.
"Action" does not necessarily mean car chases, gun battles, sword fights, or the like. In the sense that I used the term, "action" means "something happening." In the works of bad writers, the ones who haven't a hope of ever being published until they learn their craft and who are not worth a publisher's financial risk, there is no action on the first page. They start out with mood-setting description or they describe a character's state of mind for five pages. Sometimes, there is a lot of exposition and backstory. Whatever the case may be, in the case of bad writing, in the "here and now" diagesis of the story that the writer is trying to tell, nothing is happening. It would be too trite to say that the hapless reader is waiting to find out what the story is, because he or she is just going to put it down and never want to look at it again. The editor is going to look at it, figure in his or her head how long it is going to take to read the rest of it based on the page count or the word count, and then, in all likelihood, toss it into the reject bin and read the next submission.

Every summer a friend of mine and his wife went on week long vacation to the diamond field in Arkansas. They did this religiously for fifteen or so years. They found small chips and stones poor in quality year after year. They kept going back. One day while they were digging his wife let out a scream. When the stone was finally cut and polished it was estimated to be worth a little over 80k. The self published are looking for that stone.
Self-publishers work on the longtail market model. Lulu.com is honest about this. They know that major publishers want 10 writers who sell 1 million books apiece. Lulu wants 1 million writers who sell 100 books apiece*.

Self-publishing writers want to be published, period. They might think that they are doing better for their work and for themselves by taking control of the process, or they might have decided that their work is so niche in nature and geared towards so vertical a market that they are better off doing it on their own. I don't think any of them are certain that they, sooner or later, will produce gems. Lulu's best seller only hit 32,000 copies*. With numbers like that, they would be better off hunting for diamonds in Arkansas .

Once, a proud individual showed up to a writing group that I co-organize. She had a copy of her first novel with her. She proclaimed that it was just published, and the others in the group all wanted to know the publisher's name. Without batting an eye, she said "Lulu!" There were people there who started asking how to get published on Lulu and she started a spiel about how she needed to do this, needed to do that, and I chimed in with "you pay about $250 to them, and upload your file, after following their instructions online on how to prepare it for their use."

This might seem like a "holy hand grenade" approach to dealing with her, but I wanted to eliminate any possibility of the other members of the group considering that a vanity press was right for them. I also wanted to put her claims into context.

Unperturbed by this, she went on to describe her journey towards choosing Lulu. In the end, only one publisher would speak to her and the acquisitions editor read her book and said what has got to be among the most eloquent brush-offs that I ever heard in the publishing industry:
This is an amazing piece of work. You really shouldn't be looking for a publisher at this point. You don't need a publisher; you need a printer!
I have to remember to use that line one of these days, but I digress. My point is that self-publishing services exist because there are works out there that deserve to be made available to the small number of people who want to read them. She told us that she sold 200 copies, so when I gave the Lulu sales quote cited above, she was pleased to learn that she had exceeded Lulu's sales expectations by 100%.

If the author is producing work better written than the tamperings of the cooks why the fuck are the cooks getting involved? Who is the idiot in charge of that cluster fuck? If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
The problem is that all manuscripts, be they by New York Times bestselling authors, by fresh-faced neophytes, or by great recognized literary masters, need to be edited. Most of them are broken and need to be fixed; their manuscripts are complete cluster[expletive deleted]s without editorial input. The writer is the least qualified person to judge his or her own work. Very few writers "hit it" right with every manuscript.

A publisher needs more than one editor to look at each and every manuscript to make sure that no single editor's bias affects the company's entire output because they do not want every book to read the same way. Those who have the wherewithal for it will hire freelancers to do one of the edits on the work in order to ensure that some input has been made into the product by someone who does not have a financial interest in its success or failure.

You might not like bestsellers for being branded, popular culture pablum, but they sell well in part because these people are doing their jobs correctly. Yes, marketing plays a part in it. It is not because the public largely consists of morons who will buy anything as long as it has been marketed well, however.

If you are certain that your work is so amazing that it needs no editorial input at all and that it never needs to go through any sort of redacting process on its way to publication, then kudos to you for your confidence. You don't need a publisher; you need a printer.
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Old 03-15-2011, 07:09 AM
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Another Editor ..............I'm glad someone knows what the hell their talking about.

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Old 03-15-2011, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Domenic View Post
Another Editor ..............I'm glad someone knows what the hell their talking about.

Domenic

How do you know?
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Last edited by Gaines; 03-15-2011 at 08:06 AM..
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Old 03-15-2011, 08:23 AM
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Old 03-15-2011, 08:35 AM
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Once, a proud individual showed up to a writing group that I co-organize. She had a copy of her first novel with her. She proclaimed that it was just published, and the others in the group all wanted to know the publisher's name. Without batting an eye, she said "Lulu!" There were people there who started asking how to get published on Lulu and she started a spiel about how she needed to do this, needed to do that, and I chimed in with "you pay about $250 to them, and upload your file, after following their instructions online on how to prepare it for their use."
*************************

With support like that who needs two good legs to stand on. And you wonder why she doesn't send you cards at Christmas.



This might seem like a "holy hand grenade" approach to dealing with her, but I wanted to eliminate any possibility of the other members of the group considering that a vanity press was right for them. I also wanted to put her claims into context.
******************

Sounds about right to me. Why pick and chose when you can kill them all at once.





Unperturbed by this, she went on to describe her journey towards choosing Lulu. In the end, only one publisher would speak to her and the acquisitions editor read her book and said what has got to be among the most eloquent brush-offs that I ever heard in the publishing industry:
This is an amazing piece of work. You really shouldn't be looking for a publisher at this point. You don't need a publisher; you need a printer!
**************************

Hold that thought.



The problem is that all manuscripts, be they by New York Times bestselling authors, by fresh-faced neophytes, or by great recognized literary masters, need to be edited. Most of them are broken and need to be fixed; their manuscripts are complete cluster[expletive deleted]s without editorial input. The writer is the least qualified person to judge his or her own work. Very few writers "hit it" right with every manuscript.
**********************

You can say "fuck" We do it all the time. Let me guess...you consider it a sign of a weak mind. It has made its way into mainstream print long ago.



A publisher needs more than one editor to look at each and every manuscript to make sure that no single editor's bias affects the company's entire output because they do not want every book to read the same way. Those who have the wherewithal for it will hire freelancers to do one of the edits on the work in order to ensure that some input has been made into the product by someone who does not have a financial interest in its success or failure.

You might not like bestsellers for being branded, popular culture pablum, but they sell well in part because these people are doing their job correctly. Yes, marketing plays a part in it. It is not because the public largely consists of morons who will buy anything as long as it has been marketed well, however.
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I could care less how it's branded. I have stated that I would take the traditional publishing route in a heartbeat. My stance centers on the fact that with todays avenues for publication new writers have an opportunity to get their work noticed. I never said they would be read by the masses but who knows who that will happen to or for. No one does.

As for morons that will buy anything I recall the Pet Rock craze, the Snuggie, the Shamwoo..etc. Yes, they will buy anything.



If you are certain that your work is so amazing that it needs no editorial input at all and that it never needs to go through any sort of redacting process on its way to publication, then kudos to you for your confidence. You don't need a publisher; you need a printer. [/quote]
**************************

You can let go of that thought now. Oh..you did. I bet you have been dying to try that one out for a long long time. Feel better? I hope so. And what's with the smiley face. Come on, you didn't really meant that did you? Fess up. I got your editors goat but good.

What is most amazing to me is the one page trained eye bit. I like that. It shows a certain sense of infallability. Kind of like over confidence. You know, over confidence, the feeling you get right before you (expletive deleted) up.

Am I certain my work should go straight to print? Does a fat baby fart in the woods? I have no idea where my shit will end up. Maybe in the trash or a shoe box in the attic. Maybe on a shelf in Barneys and Nobles. Hard to tell. But I never made claim otherwise. I just chunk it out there and see what happens.

As for the trained eye I amazed they didn't shoot that scrawny ass Seabiscuit on sight. Some eyes have the sense to read past the first page. I guess you have to dig a bit to find a diamond of worth.

I like this.
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Old 03-16-2011, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
What is most amazing to me is the one page trained eye bit. I like that. It shows a certain sense of infallability. Kind of like over confidence. You know, over confidence, the feeling you get right before you (expletive deleted) up.
This is how readers think. People who buy books will know whether or not they want to buy it in less than a minute. Even if money is not a big deal for them, they will know whether or not they want to spend any time reading it in that amount of time. Sure, the cover and the back cover text are important, and so is any brand associated with the author, the series, or the publisher; but books are very expensive and most people take a while to read them, so they are not going to want to waste too much money or time on something that starts out in an uninspiring way, just in case it might in some strange contingency, improve later. Overconfidence in a manuscript that begins badly can cost you your job.

Chances are, a writer who does not know how to start a story, does not know how to tell that story either (I'll leave out the issue of what a "told story" is for now) or even how to finish it.

Good writers think like readers. They can do this because they read a lot, too; not just the good stuff, but also crap. They can understand what they read in terms of how the writer crafted it and they can learn from this. Please note that there is a difference between "learning from how other people write" and "imitation."

Now perhaps some works by some writers can be improved if they have their craft and an editor can prod them into applying their craft throughout the entire text. It becomes a matter of cutting away the areas where the writer was too lazy to do a proper job; but if the writer does not even know how to do a proper job to begin with because he or she has no craft, then there is no point. Editors cannot be writing instructors for everyone.

As for the trained eye I amazed they didn't shoot that scrawny ass Seabiscuit on sight. Some eyes have the sense to read past the first page. I guess you have to dig a bit to find a diamond of worth.
Acquisitions editors are like Hollywood producers or music industry A&R people. Their gatekeeping role protects companies from investing time, money, and other resources into products that will flop and in so doing, deprive many people of their livelihoods (more on that below). None of these people ever got fired for saying "no." They can only get fired for saying "yes." If they pass up on a hit, that's one thing. If they buy into a dud, it's unforgivable.

Remember that publishing is a business and other than the law, there are very few moral standards in business that are worth granting more consideration to than what the consumers will buy. Publishing companies are businesses. This means that the people who own them will not take any money home unless and until payroll is met. That means that choosing works that will sell is the only way to make sure that mortgages will get paid, clothing and future college tuitions for babies will be secured, and food will be put onto tables. It is also the only way to make sure that writers get paid, too, since they worry about all of those other things just as much as everyone else does.

Now, you can talk until you are blue in the face about writers like Kafka or Lovecraft who died before their greatest works had the greatest possible impact, but their impact today can still be measured in terms of popularity. Influence, by the way, is just another kind of popularity.

Incidentally, if it was really true that the general public consists of morons who will buy anything, then there would be no reason for marketing at all, and marketing wouldn't be a multi-billion-dollar worldwide industry. There would be no need for market research. There would be no need for test audiences for books (yes, some publishers use those).
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Old 03-16-2011, 05:45 AM
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Many a shit manuscript turned book sits languishing on the shelves of retail outlets everywhere. Marketing is designed to lead the herd to water. It is still as nearly a big a crap shoot as ebook and other venues when you take out the known commodities that will sell to an established readership. Difference being the publisher markets to cover their costs and hopefully make a profit. Glacially slow for the new writer trying to get a name out there.
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