Archive for 'the business of publishing'
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Quite a few years ago I did a blog series about choosing a publisher, specifically an epublisher: what to look for, what to be wary of, that sort of thing. It’s a topic I’ve revisited now and again, though not recently (thanks to my long moratorium on discussing writing-related subjects).
But you know…I just, I’m tried of seeing something. I’ve been tired of seeing it for, oh, eight years or so now, and I grow more tired of seeing it every day, and it pisses me off, so I’m going to talk about it anyway, because there seems to be a new wave of it out there.
I am sick to fucking death of seeing bad publishers, or writers associated with them, justify their lousy treatment of writers and their unprofessionalism and their crappy business decisions and their lack of ability to perform a publisher’s number one job (which is to SELL BOOKS TO READERS) with the following phrase:
“We/they took a chance on you, so you should be grateful!”
You guys, publishers do not “take chances” on your work, at least, not in the way these people imply they do. Sure, every book is a chance they take. In the most basic sense I must concede that publishing is about taking chances, and your book could lose money.
But those publishers who stand to lose money? They’re buying the rights to publish your book because they’re pretty sure it will actually make them money*, and they’re basing that decision on quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work**. They’re buying your book because in their professional opinions it is well-written enough and interesting enough to appeal to a large audience of readers, and they want to sell it to those readers. It’s “taking a chance,” yes, but not in the sense these snippy little writer-nannies seem to mean it, whereby the author who’s getting fucked over is apparently supposed to spread wider and beg for more because hey, somebody agreed to publish their book! That means they have license to treat the author any way they want and make whatever shitty business decisions they want and the author should just shut the hell up, right?
(*They SHOULD be buying the rights because they think it will make them money, anyway; and **They SHOULD have quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work before they start acquiring books. More on that in a bit.)
The thing is, when you tell another writer that they should be grateful somebody took a chance on their book, you might as well scratch out “book” and insert “piece of shit.” Isn’t that what you’re really implying? That they should be glad somebody actually agreed to publish that crap they wrote? That it’s not really a good book or anything, so they’ve been done a huge favor and beggers can’t be choosers? That they don’t really deserve a decent, professional publisher, so they should be glad somebody agreed to “give them a chance?”
Quite frankly, if the book isn’t good enough, then doesn’t that almost by definition mean that a publisher who “takes a chance on it” isn’t a very good publisher? Because they’re publishing books that, well, aren’t good enough to be published? (It’s like a big “chicken or the egg” loop, isn’t it?) There’s no benefit to anyone in “taking a chance” in publishing a lousy book; it doesn’t benefit the writer, it doesn’t benefit the publisher, and it certainly doesn’t benefit the people the industry exists to serve: those people we call “readers,” who spend their hard-earned money on those books.
Either you think your publisher publishes good and worthy books (like yours, right?) and therefore should be providing the authors of those books with all of the benefits professional publishers provide, or you think your publisher tends to publish crappy books (except yours, I guess?) which deserve only the bare bones and everyone should just be glad they got a “chance.”
Except–and here’s the big thing–throwing a book out into the ether without promotion or decent cover art or good editing is NOT giving it a chance. It’s sort of stacking the deck against it, actually, and ensuring that most people either won’t have the “chance” to hear about it, won’t look beyond the cover, won’t look beyond the excerpt, or won’t find it to be of high enough quality to “take a chance” on other books from that publisher or by that author. Or, of course, they’ll see a review that mentions poor cover art and/or editing, and write both publisher and author off in their minds.
Being a writer means you make, and take, your OWN chances. You’re taking a chance every time you open a new Word doc and start writing. You’re taking a chance every time you submit. You’re the one who controls the quality of your book and what happens in it–don’t forget, editors are not supposed to change your book, just make suggestions. It’s your name on the cover, and what’s inside should be 100% yours. Publishers do not–should not–be the ones deigning to give your book a “chance,” the way you may agree to a date with that guy who doesn’t really appeal but seems nice enough, or the way you might give someone who’s been rude and nasty to you one more chance to make it up to you, or whatever other serious power imbalances and ambivalence are inherently implied in the phrase “give it a chance.” A publisher shouldn’t be publishing your book reluctantly. They should be snatching it up. A publisher who buys your book is not–should not be–doing you a fucking favor.
You know what you owe the people who publish your book? You owe them the text of that book, turned in on time, edited on time. That’s it. That is ALL.
Now, in the standard nature of the professional author-publisher relationship, it also behooves you to do things like not scream and yell at editors, and not turn to the internet to scream about your publisher because you found out X got a higher advance, and generally not make yourself horrendously unpleasant to work with. It behooves you to work with your editor, whose sole interest is and should be making your book the best it can possibly be. It may also behoove you–it’s not a requirement, usually, but it’s often nice–to do things like have a website or make appearances or do guest blogs or interviews or whatever at the publisher’s request, in order to help make you and your book more visible in hopes of selling more copies.
Nowhere on that list, or on any of the similar things I left off the list because of length considerations, are things like, “It’s necessary to let your editor call you an idiot and imply that you’re lucky she agreed to take on that piece of shit you think is a book,” or “You can’t forget to let various publishing staffers call you names,” or “You must sit quietly while a pack of illiterates overshare about their ladyparts in emails to you,” or “It’s important to remember that paying you is something we do out of the kindness of our hearts,” or “Never think you deserve things like distribution or for our website to work properly or for us not to behave like twats online.” Nowhere on that list are things like “Of course, by submitting your work you agree that only entitled jerks expect to be able to negotiate contracts,” or “If you think you have a right to an opinion about your work, you’re dead wrong,” or really any variation of “Be grateful we published your talentless ass, loser.”
Here’s the thing. As I said, yeah, it’s sort of true that any publisher who offers you a contract is “taking a chance,” on you. But the thing to remember is that A) You are also taking a chance, on them, and believe me, there are plenty of stories out there–a really sadly large number of stories–of authors for whom that chance didn’t work out; and B) Everything is a “chance,” if you want to look at it that way.
For example. Are you married? If you are, that means your spouse “took a chance” on you. Does that mean, in turn, that you are required to allow him/her to be abusive? That you get no say in the finances, or where you live, or how you spend your evenings? Does that mean every argument is your fault, or that s/he is entitled to cheat on you and you should shut up, sit down, and be grateful? (Yeah, I know that last one with the cheating is stretching the analogy a little. Tough.)
It doesn’t. Because the “chance” isn’t all on one side in your marriage, and it isn’t all on one side with your publisher. If your spouse tells you it is, s/he is abusive and you need to get the fuck out. Same with your publisher.
You were offered a contract–you should have been offered a contract–because your publisher thinks your work is good enough to sell. Your publisher thinks that not only will the publisher make money, but you will, too. That’s how partnership works, see, and really, to a large extent publishing is a partnership.
All that editing and cover design and stuff that amateurish publishers keep insisting they provided free of charge so you should be grateful? Yeah. Books get cover art because cover art attracts readers: you know, paying customers. Books gets editing because publishers who want repeat business don’t expect to get it by selling a substandard product–at least, publishers with half a damn brain don’t.
Another example: Say you walk into a restaurant, and the food is bad. Next time you’re considering where to eat, is that place going to be at the top of your list? Unless you’re a culinary masochist, I’m guessing no. Personally, I go to look at the websites of new publishers and look at the excerpts, and if I see more than one full of grammar/spelling/punctuation errors or clunky writing? Not only do I not buy those books, I don’t look at the others, and I write that publisher off in my head. Sure, I might check again one day, but the odds are against it. I’m sorry for the good writers (and, sadly, good writers sign with bad publishers every day, and I in no way mean to imply anything different) who are caught up with that substandard house, but my time is limited and there are too many good books out there for me to spend hours hunting through published slush piles to try to find the one or two good books in there. I’m sorry about that; sorry for the writers watching their good books sink in a heap of not-so-good ones, and sorry for me because I miss out on a story I might have loved.
I’m digressing. My point is: Quit telling writers they should be grateful that publishers “took a chance” on them and provided them–however expertly or ineptly–with the things that are the fucking job of a goddamn publisher, like editing and cover art, and provided it in the way that a publisher is supposed to, which is without charge. Oh, good, they’ve done the bare-bones minimum, so writers are supposed to be tearfully grateful for the crumbs from their table. Whoopee.
You guys, let me be blunt. You are better than that. You deserve more than that. You deserve a publisher who will provide you with the things a publisher is supposed to provide, professionally executed, and in a professional fashion. You do not need to be “grateful” that someone published you; a real, professional house is just as grateful that they are getting the opportunity to work with you. An editor doesn’t wake up one morning, grab any old manuscript from the slush pile, and decide to send a contract because, gee, they just feel like giving somebody a chance that morning (at least, a good editor doesn’t). You didn’t win some sort of lottery. You worked hard and made your book the best it can possibly be, and if a publisher contracts that book it should be because they think they can make money on it and want to work with you, not because they’re granting favors and your name was in the hat.
I repeat: They are not doing you a favor.
And if they say they are or imply they are…they’re wrong, and you deserve better.
I may discuss this more tomorrow.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Disclaimer: Once again, this is just opinions/thinking on the page, YMMV, Devil’s Advocate, hoping for a dialogue, please don’t kill me, all that sort of thing.
Not too long ago I was involved in a discussion on an internet forum where I am a long-time member, in which I expressed an opinion about the writing process, basically. And someone responded to me to say, basically, that I obviously expected everyone to give my opinions more weight because of my publishing record, and that it seemed to this person that I expected everyone to listen to me not because I was right but because I thought being published meant I knew better than everyone else; this person felt that I was acting like my opinions were facts and relying on my credentials to make others think so too.
Now. For the record, I know some of you may have seen that discussion and I want to make it very, very clear that the person who said that is entitled to his/her opinions and feelings and that I am absolutely NOT trying to “bring the discussion here,” or berate or belittle them in any way. I’m not. Not one bit.
My reason for mentioning it here is because it so perfectly illustrates the point I want to make today and the discussion I want to have, which is that once you are published you are no longer “a reader;” not because you’ve stopped reading (hopefully), but because other people see you differently. Readers see you differently. Maybe not all of them, no; I certainly can’t speak for every reader in the world (or any of them, for that matter; they can speak for themselves, and who am I to decide I’m their champion or something?). But for many of them…you have become “an author.” A different sort of animal. Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Okay. Maybe someone can explain this to me.
In the past few days I’ve seen two of these display-site/make-your-books-go-viral/readers-can’t-wait-to-read-your-unedited-unpublished-book sites. Slush sites; also known as YADS (Yet Another Display Site), because yeah, this is an idea that people have been trying and trying for years now, and which has never to my knowledge resulted in any sort of publishing deal for anyone.
Anyway. The two I’m thinking of offhand are PUBSLUSH (read more at AW and Writer Beware here and here) and the not-yet-unveiled ViralBestseller.com (link goes to the AW thread).
Here’s the basic idea behind these sites. The PUBSLUSH people or the “agents” at ViralBestseller will post your book on a website. According to them, what will then happen is that thousands of eager readers will flock to their site, desperate to find something new to read that hasn’t been touched by those horrible editors (ViralBestseller refers to “unedited glory” and reading “the author’s original intensions[sic],” which frankly to me displays a deep misunderstanding of the editing process, but whatever) or professional publishers or, well, anyone who can determine whether or not the work in question is actually readable. Readers, they claim, are desperate to wade through thousands of manuscripts looking for one that they might like. In the case of PUBSLUSH, their plan is for readers to actually pledge money to preorder the book, based on a ten-page sample, and when a certain amount of supporters/cash is reached the book will be published.
Now…okay. Maybe the problem here is me (I am the “lazy reader” referred to in the title of the post). I fully admit that may be the case. I certainly think of myself as a dedicated and avid reader; I don’t have as much time to read now as I used to, seeing as how I spend so much time writing them these days, but I certainly still read and buy books and read some more. I read a lot. Probably not as much as any of you, but certainly as much as I can. I’m always looking for book recommendations. Those of you who’ve reviewed my books favorably in the past may be surprised to know that based on that (by which I mean your obviously excellent taste in literature), I visit your sites to see what else you’re reading that you like, and check those books out at the bookstore. I write down titles; I look to see who you’re talking about (I also grit my teeth because, you know, talking about other books means you’re not talking about mine, but still). (That is of course a joke.) (Mostly.)
But I look at sites like these and I think, man…I just don’t want to have to work that hard, you know?
I have a big enough TBR list; I have books by my friends whose writing I love that I don’t manage to get to fast enough for me. I have recommendations I’ve found on your sites, if you review. I have research reading to do; my nonfiction library is ever-growing. I have books I saw at the bookstore that I bought just cuz they looked cool that I haven’t gotten to read yet. That adds up to a lot of books.
So when I’m thinking of looking for something new to read (if I’m not just picking something from my TBR)…I dunno, I just never think to myself, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to spend several hours hunting through digital slushpiles to see if maybe there’s something in there I might want to read on my laptop.” In the case of PUBSLUSH, that would be “I’d like to spend several hours looking through ten-page samples in hopes of pledging to pay $25 to maybe get the whole thing in a few months’ time.”
All of the YADS play on–most of them have little screeds written to the effect of–the idea that commercial publishing as it is is “broken” and isn’t serving readers. I disagree with this; sure, not every book is to my taste, but in general I find there’s plenty of variety out there to keep me happy and interested. And the idea that publishers have no idea what readers want puzzles me, too, frankly. You and I might think TWILIGHT isn’t very good (or we may love it; I’m not saying anything one way or the other) but the fact remains that an agent and an editor read it and thought “This book will appeal to lots of readers,” and they were right, and that happens every day. Yes, bad books get published. I can certainly think of a few. But good ones do, too, every day.
But to get back to the main point…am I just lazy? Is this something readers actually want to do? Do you find yourself hunting around odd websites looking for something that might be interesting to read? Do you look at sites like those?
Or do you, like me, and like–I believe–the majority of readers, still prefer to find and read books from bookstores, from reviews on trusted sites, from friends who’ve read them? Books that you can be fairly certain are at least up to a certain standard of readability?
I’m genuinely curious. Because like I said, I just don’t want to work that hard to find something to read, and I just don’t have that kind of time.
BTW…I now have a Tumblr. So if you’re on Tumblr, let me know! I have plans for something fun on Tumblr soon, which I’m working on at the moment, so…there’ll be more on that later.
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Last night I got a couple of pingbacks in my email, letting me know some of my posts had been linked to. I think you can guess which ones; the little series I did several weeks back about watching what you say online.
Turns out that little tempest-in-a-teapot has not in fact died, but has grown and changed and turned into something huge and sinister. Turns out there are people out there now–otherwise reasonable people, I assume–who are equating my words with threats that someone will never be published or will never find an agent, that authors can and will “blackball” someone for a negative review, or whatever. Turns out I have somehow inadvertently created a cabal (NOTE: This doesn’t mean I think it’s all down to me or anything, just that my post is being linked to by people who say it was/is a “key exchange” in starting the whole thing. Trust me, there may be things in this world I’d like credit for. Threatening to ruin people’s careers from behind the scenes like some sort of self-important literary Blofeld is not one of them). The YA Mafia. I’m not sure how that happened, given that I’m not published in YA, but my posts are being linked to as the ones that started it all. And hey, my agent has a YA proposal from me as I write this, which I’m extremely excited about because it has all sorts of dark bloody creepiness in it. Including Springheel Jacks (yes, Jacks, as in more than one. Whee!). I digress.
I’m extremely tempted to ignore all of this and just move on. The only reason I’m not doing it is because it apparently started with me, so I feel partly responsible for the discussions, and because people are spreading some pretty wild stories about what I said (no offense to that commenter, who seems a very nice, rational person. Hers was simply the first comment I saw to illustrate my point. It is far from the only comment of that sort out there, and most people don’t apologize when it’s pointed out that they’ve misinterpreted something like that. She did. I appreciate that. This isn’t about her at all. It is about the fact that this is all getting blown way out of proportion, and I don’t appreciate being lied about).
There is no “mafia.” No writer in the world can keep you from getting published if your work is good. Period.
So you might not get a blurb from someone. As I said repeatedly when this all started, so fucking what? That’s not going to ruin your career, or end it before it’s even begun. So when you do a panel with someone they might not invite you for a drink afterward. Again, oh well.
The statement was NEVER made, by me or anyone else I’m aware of, that writing a negative review of a book could mean you never get published or repped.
The statement was NEVER made by me or anyone else I’m aware of that I would ask my agent not to rep someone who gave me a bad review. I said I might be a little hurt. Sorry, I am a human being, with feelings, just like everyone else. My agent and I have a very close relationship. I might be a little hurt. I probably wouldn’t even mention this to him (and for the record, he told me that if the review was really nasty he’d assume the writer isn’t very professional and thus not be interested in them, but a calm “This is why it didn’t work for me” wouldn’t be a big deal if the work was wonderful). I certainly wouldn’t email or call him and say “So-and-so only gave me two stars. I never want to see you go near her/him ever.”
Nor would I do that with my editor, which is another claim being made. Would I care if she signed a writer who didn’t like my work? Not one damn bit, no. An editor-author relationship is different from an agent-author relationship, for one thing. And for another…
Geez, guys, it’s just a review. Who cares about it, really?
Yeah, I might not want to blurb you if you took the time to write a big old post about not liking my book. So what. As I said in my original post, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help you with other things if you needed it. That certainly doesn’t mean I’d start calling people to put your name on the Secret Mafia Blackball List. It certainly doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to damage your career.
The simple truth is–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–I don’t care about you. I don’t know you. You don’t mean anything to me, beyond being another human being with whom I share this planet. If you’re one of my readers you mean a little more to me, sure. I try to do whatever I can for my readers; I love them. I will and have gone out of my way for them, whether they blog or not. But if you’re not one of them, you’re probably not on my radar at all. If I see your negative review I’ll probably shrug. Again as I said in those posts, if I have to choose between blurbing you and blurbing a book by one of my readers, my reader gets the blurb (unless her books sucks, which of course it won’t, because my readers are so awesome it hurts). That’s assuming I even remember your name; I don’t write this shit down, and I have a horrible memory. I might google you, if I’m bored. I might not; I probably won’t.
Somehow it seems book bloggers in general got tied up in all of this, which I find extremely upsetting, and frankly confusing. I’m not really sure how much more outspoken I can be on the subject of book bloggers/readers having the right to say anything they damn well please about a book, short of buying a bullhorn and picketing genre conventions. I have never once failed to back the reader/reader-blogger when it comes to an author vs. situation, and yeah, it is personally upsetting to me to see that completely disregarded, to see no one even bothering to read the posts I linked to on that subject before declaring what my intentions and words were.
That’s too bad for me, though. Because–and here is where we go full circle–anything you say on the internet is public, and people are people and don’t always take things the way you want them to. Because, which was honestly the whole point of the first post in the series, once you become a writer and have work published you are no longer free to speak your mind as clearly and openly as you once were; or rather, you certainly are free to do so, but there are and will be consequences. I can point not only to this little kerfuffle, but to numerous others to illustrate this. The line “She put it out there on the internet, it’s public, she can say whatever she wants but she has to accept that people might not like it and will talk about it” has been repeated so many times by so many people it’s almost funny at this point.
Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s frustrating and difficult sometimes. Tough. It’s part of the job.
What this all boils down to is that somehow, my attempt to pass on a bit of advice–the internet can be scary, it really can, and you never know what might set someone off so it’s best to just be very careful and not burn any bridges–has turned into ALL YOUR PUBLISHING CHANCES ARE BELONG TO ME.
There is no “Mafia.” No one has that much power. Quite frankly, nothing that happens on the internet is that damn important. All of those “Authors Behaving Badly” posts out there? Don’t really matter. Those authors are still publishing, and the vast majority of readers have no idea of the scandal du jour. Although it seems big, the number of readers who actually hang out in the online readerworld is minute.
And something else I learned is that for every person who sees what you say and thinks “Man, fuck that bitch”–whether it’s because of what you said or what they think you said or whatever–there’s someone else who thinks, “Man, that chick is awesome for speaking her mind.”
The lesson there? People are people, and we’re all different. Some of us may feel one way, some another.
But we’re still people. Yes, people can be incredibly scary sometimes. But most of us aren’t. We’re a pretty decent bunch, I think, we writers. We might get annoyed by something or upset when attacked or whatever; we have bad days just like everyone or anyone else. We have to be careful when we have those bad days, more careful than non-writers. We have to be careful especially if we’re women.
But I’m also careful when I go out alone at night. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to do it at all. I’m just careful.
My post was intended as a bit of advice, and something interesting to discuss. I say down on the Sunday night and thought, “Oh, that’ll be a cool topic to discuss. I can do a little series on it, that’ll be fun. I like doing series.” It was not intended as some sort of rule. It was most certainly not a threat; it never occurred to me that anyone would think of it that way, because to assume someone is threatening you is to assume they have some power over you, and I have none. I’ve never claimed to have any.
But sheesh, guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Yes, the internet is forever, but you know what? Nothing is forever. Things are forgotten. People move on. People stop caring, if they ever did. No one is threatening you. No one is calling the Boss of Publishing–Don Paperback, or whatever–to tell him you sleep with the fishes. I’m not sure how exactly that belief came about, but it’s not true, and as Zoe Winters says here, “No one EVER Said That.” (Interestingly enough, that belief, the misunderstanding, was really the main point behind my saying “You can’t be both”–not that writers would ostracize you but that readers would misunderstand you/mistrust you. Sadly, it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.)
What you say online may lose you a few readers. It might gain you a few. It might make Author A not inclined to blurb you. It might make Author B more inclined to do so. I don’t enjoy controversy so I avoid it. I think making enemies is pointless so I avoid it. (Frankly, I think writing negative reviews is generally a waste of my time, because I have no special attachment to reviewing and never have. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d usually rather spend my time talking about books I loved.) What you say online might very well make you some enemies or thrust you into unwanted controversy. It may cross a few names of your list. Like I said, I don’t understand why someone would feel so strongly about being able to review, or why they would be upset at being told they have to be careful with what they say, since A) When you’re published you have to be even more careful, and B) Isn’t that sort of standard in the world? Don’t we always need to be careful what we say? Just like we don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “Wow! Your dress is really ugly!” so we are careful what we put out there publicly online, too.
But what your statements online won’t do is keep you from getting published if your work is good. (Hell, even if it isn’t; I know one specific example of this, who although the houses aren’t particularly well-regarded or established, they’re still putting out books with that writer’s name on them, and there are so many marks against that person it makes my head spin.) Unless you are a complete ranting harpie, if your work is good you will find people who want to work with you.
The writing is everything. The work is everything. Focus on that, and quit worrying about whether or not it’s okay to say you didn’t like a book. There is no “Mafia.” There is no “blacklist.” There are only people, and we’re all different. And most of all there are books, and those are what matter more than anything else.
Seriously. Don’t worry about this. Just write the best book you can.
Other posts on this topic:
An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
You’d think I’d like proofs, since I love copyedits so much. You’d be wrong. I hate proofs.
I’m not sure why, really. They’re just…lame. And rather dull. And I don’t like ’em.
Proofs are standard sheets of paper, on which the pages of the book are laid out side-by-side, full-size (that is, mmp [mass market paperback] size, or trade size, or hardover size if you have a hardcover, or whatever). So really, when you very first see your very first proof, it’s exciting. I was all kinds of thrilled when I got my UNHOLY GHOSTS proofs and saw the awesome font Del Rey used for my chapter heads (Chapter One, etc.) and the brackets around the epigrams. It was exciting to see the book as a real book, real book pages and all.
But after that initial excitement…sigh.
This is a page proof from UNHOLY MAGIC. (Again, you have to click it, then click again to view it full-size, sorry. It’s too big for the blog.)
And here’s a close-up of some proof edits from that same set of proofs:
The photocopy sent to me for UM was cut off just a bit at the top, so here’s the upper left corner of the CITY OF GHOSTS proofs:
So. Copyedits were originally done on the printed manuscript. I go through them, and two editors–the CE and my own–go through them.
Then the ms is laid out as a book–I believe those Keebler-elf-type folks in the Production Dept. handle that, presumably sneaking out of their hidey-holes under cover of darkness, dancing and waving around little elf-sized flagons of mead, singing happy little work songs as they sprinkle Magic Book Dust on the ms, and leaving the finished product there on a spotlessly clean table for the other employees to discover in the morning. I believe two copies are printed, and one goes to me and another to another copyeditor. But it may be that the proof goes to another CE, his or her changes are implemented, and another proof is made which comes to me. But I’m pretty sure we get proofs at the same time.
Now. Many of you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, I’ll mention it. Major changes are not supposed to be made in proofs. The deletion of a sentence here and there, removing or adding punctuation, fixing typos or other errors, fine. Deciding you want to add a new section of dialogue? Not so fine.
It’s not happened to me, but it’s my understanding that if an author makes over a certain amount of changes to their page proofs–major changes–they have to pay for the additional typesetting/conversion/whatever it is (those elves require a LOT of mead to keep them happy and productive). I don’t believe that’s a canard along the lines of “If you don’t earn out your advance you have to give part of it back,” which people who have no idea what they’re talking about like to trot out and parade in front of aspiring writers, usually in order to sell them on a vanity press. I believe that making major changes at this stage is actually something we have to pay for.
So we need to be damn sure everything is the way we want it before we mail those copyedits back.
Changes are made much like in CEs, though:
and here’s one where the editor who went over the proofs or the data entry/whatever made an error (or we all missed it in CEs, which does happen. It’s harder than you think to catch every single mistake, because you tend to see what it’s supposed to say rather than what it does):
So. I make my changes, and send the proofs back. I have now “signed off” on the book, which means no further text changes should be made at all.
There is at least one additional proof, however, which is done in-house. I believe another CE goes over it, and I know my editor goes over it, but I don’t see it. That’s the proof during which they make sure that all of the necessary changes have been implemented, that the book is ready to be printed, because that final proof is exactly how it will be printed.
Why do I hate page proofs so much? I don’t really know, honestly. After that initial excitement fades, really, they’re just…tedious. Which sounds bad, because it is after all my own book(s), which I love and worked hard on and believe in and am so proud of. But actually physically reading them in book form enthralls me (at least once; I don’t read them repeatedly, no, but going through and reading them as actual books is pretty exciting), so I don’t believe that’s the problem.
I think the issue is what I said above: you have to make sure you see what’s there, now what you think should be there. So you’re not just reading for pleasure, enjoying the story and the sense of accomplishment and all of that. You’re inspecting every word and every line. You’re paying very close attention. You’re seeing a bit here and there you should have worded differently, now that it’s too late to change it (this is always a problem in reading my own finished books). And you’re–at least I am–afraid you’re going to miss something, and your book will have–gasp!–a typo.
Seriously. I mock, but I loathe typos. I hate them. Just like I make it a point of pride to turn in my mss as typo/error-free as possible, so I am with the finished product; even more so, for obvious reasons. I seriously live in fear of getting one of those “There’s a mistake in your book” emails a certain type of person apparently likes to send out. I get annoyed when I see them in other books, and would have a fit to find one in mine.
Because the book is it, you know? It’s all people have to judge me by. And I hate the idea that it’s going out into the world as one of those “But I see typos in books from the Big 5 all the time” type of novels that some people seem to think justifies their own lack of care and attention to spelling/grammar etc.
A typo in my finished book is a big piece of literary spinach between my front teeth. It’s embarrassing.
So I really go over those proofs; I mean, I read them slowly and focus hard on every word to make sure it really is spelled right and punctuated correctly and reads correctly and all of that. This is the last chance I’ll have to correct any errors, at least unless and until the book goes into a second printing. Errors can be fixed for the new print run, but generally only if they’re deemed important enough (which a single typo is not) or, I guess, if the error was with an editor or data person or whatever who made changes after I signed off on the book. And the books with the mistake are still out there, of course; they can’t be recalled or something. (Books do get pulled and pulped, but generally only if a significant error was made, it’s plagiarized, or somebody sues/someone important threatens to sue.) So my typo is obviously not cause to do such a thing.
So I find proofs tedious, and unnerving, because I’m always worried that I might have missed something, I probably did miss something, damn it what if I miss something? It’s just me, some paper, and a pencil; I could very well miss something. And then the typos or other errors would be my fault.
It’s possible not everyone gets this many proofs, and a lot of people get digital proofs, which I hate. My PERSONAL DEMONS proofs were digital. PDFs, actually, which meant I had to make a separate list of errors (I did that for DEMON INSIDE, too, but that’s because the paper proofs came during RT and I didn’t have time to get them back, so just emailed the document).
So. Those are page proofs, and they’re the last I see of my book until I get ARCs in the mail–if I get them–and my author copies, which come around release time.
Once again, any questions? And does anyone have something else about the editing process they’d like to know?
What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
I hadn’t actually planned to start my little series on editing today, but this topic came up last night in email with a good friend of mine, and it annoyed me, so here we go, and we’ll do more next week (including copyedits, which will be fun, I think, and of course I’m going to use pages from the original mss of UNHOLY MAGIC and CITY OF GHOSTS to illustrate, which, again, will hopefully be fun).
Anyway. My friend and I were discussing edits, and the fact that someone she knew got a set of edits where the editor actually wrote in new dialogue.
Editors are not supposed to do this.
It is not their job.
They can tell you that conversation/line doesn’t work for them. They can maybe suggest new lines, by saying “Maybe you could try having Character A say he hates that, and Character B can say he knows, and that might make the joke clearer?” But anything beyond that is them trying to write your book for you, and you shouldn’t let them do it.
It seems to me that, especially when you get into the micropress/epress area, the favorite excuse of lame publishers for why an author might be upset with them is “S/he refused to accept editing.” “Oh, Author A is only saying we’re a total high-school clique house because she refused to accept editing so we dropped her.” “All those authors are mad because they’re prima donnas who refused to accept editing.” That sort of thing.
And I think that atmosphere, that sort of Red Pen of Damocles hanging over every writers’ head, permeates the world of writers’ forums etc., and leads many to the belief that they have to accept all suggested edits, no questions asked. If the editor says “Change this,” it better be changed.
Sadly, I also have no doubt that at some little crappy places, that is indeed the case. I know I was required to fight tooth and nail about factual accuracy, against an editor who believed people in the medieval period used hieroglyphs to communicate in writing. I’ve heard similar horror stories from small- and micro-press friends; maybe not quite as bad as that, but lots of tales about style and voice being removed and replaced with plodding paint-by-numbers writing.
Then there’s the matter of “house style,” which in a lot of cases can be downright lousy, and sometimes doesn’t make sense at all. “House style,” though, is unfortunately the one thing you’re probably not going to be able to fight with. You may be able to keep a comma here or a semicolon there if you can make a good enough case for it, but beyond that you’re going to need to let it go.
“House style,” though, isn’t generally messing about with your actual writing. It may be ridiculous things, sure, like completely interrupting the flow of a sex scene by inserting a hard break to indicate a POV switch (because we’re all so paranoid about “head-hopping” that we refuse to accept that readers are not in fact stupid, and are perfectly capable of dealing with one POV switch), or being forced to change every “start” in your book to “begin,” or whatever, because someone thinks “start” sounds “common.” But usually it’s just a few little bits here and there.
Editing is different, and editing is up to you.
It’s your book. You wrote it, and it belongs to you, and your name is on it. Yes, there is a line. An editor can refuse to accept the book, thereby requiring you to give back your advance and lose the contract, if you won’t make any changes at all. I’ve never heard of it happening, but then, most writers I know believe–as I do–that editors are generally awesome, and that it’s fun to work with them, and that they’re right most of the time with their suggestions.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a line, and it’s a line you do NOT have to cross. It certainly doesn’t mean they’re right all the time. You do NOT have to accept every edit, every suggestion, every wording change. You certainly do NOT have to allow anyone to re-write part of your book for you, absolutely not.
Working with an editor is just that–working with an editor. It’s the two of you–and maybe your agent, or maybe the editor’s assistant might have an idea, or a friend of yours who’s read the mss might come up with something you like–working together to make the book as good as it can be. It’s not you handing your work over to someone else to change it and turn it into something that isn’t yours.
There’s a difference between edits, as in your editorial letter, and edits, as in line edits, too. When I get edits from my editor at Del Rey, it’s in the form of an email or Word doc with all of her thoughts, good and bad (I firmly believe a good editor tells you what they love about the book, too; they don’t simply assume that you know they like it since they bought it. A good editor wants to talk to you about your book and the things they love about it).
I go through and implement her suggestions, basically. I may disagree with one, and discuss it with her, but so far I can think of only one editorial suggestion I dug my heels in over, and that ended up working out just fine–a quick change of something else, and it became a moot point. Really? There shouldn’t even be many issues if any, because you should agree with most of your editor’s thoughts. If s/he’s a good editor, and you’re not a Speshul Golden-Words Snowflake, most if not all of the suggestions should fall into the “Oh, riiiiight!” category.
Then come line edits. (My last few books, my ms has been sent back to me with an editorial letter and some notes made on the ms, so it’s like a combination of the two.) Line edits are “This line makes no sense,” basically. I often get “What the hell is Bump saying here, because I can’t understand him at all,” but of course, that’s me. Line edits might also be “This paragraph is overkill,” or whatever. This is where “kill your darlings”–advice with which I disagree, frankly–comes in. Lots of those overkill lines? Yeah…those are probably the “Stacia knows this is probably too much but look how good that sentence is!” lines. So those have to go. (I often stick them into a special Word doc in case I have the chance to use them later. Of course, then I never open it and re-use them, but whatever. I still have them, my poor deleted darlings, and I can go frolic in the midst of them whenever I choose.)
There may be some typos tossed in throughout there, too. There usually are. No matter how hard I try to make the ms perfect, there’s always going to be something I miss before I send it to my editor, mainly because I’ve read the damn thing so many times I see what should be there, not what is.
There will also probably be some story inconsistencies or whatever to clean up, from my own edits. If I decide to switch from having two ghosts to one, for example, I need to make sure I’ve done what is called “Following through on the cut,” and removed every reference to “they/them,” “the two ghosts,” whatever. I often miss this stuff too, again, because I’ve been going through it so much/so many times.
My editor also catches the occasional repeated word, as in “Slowly the ghost moved toward her. It raised its arm slowly, the knife in its spectral hand catching the moonlight and sending it right into her eyes, blinding her.” I don’t always notice these when I’m actually writing, and while I catch most of them when I’m editing before I turn the book in, again, I can’t find everything. I hate repeated words, actually. They bug me almost as much as sentences that begin with participial phrases (dangling or not), which I loathe with a fiery and all-devouring passion, and will never, ever use, because they’re so awful I can’t even find a way to describe how awful they are. (Let me just say, though, that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you find them in the mss of newbie writers, because they think that sentence construction is “writery” or professional, thus making them look very smooth and clever. It’s not, and it doesn’t.)
Anyway, enough of that rant. The point is, edits are something you do with your editor, not for or in spite of. You get to make the choice, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. I’d say when it comes to “regular” edits–as in editorial letter/line edits–I probably accept pretty much all of my editor’s suggestions, because I trust her, and because in most cases I agree with her. With copyedits it’s probably more like 50-75%, depending on how good the CE is, of course.
An editor is there to help you, and to help make the book as good as it can be. They are not there to rewrite your book themselves, and they are not there to remove your voice and turn it into something a third-grader would have written.
I can’t remember who said it, but I read an awesome quote a little while back. It basically said, “The only rule of grammar a writer needs to follow is to make himself understood. Everything else is style.”
It may not be true all of the time–well, it isn’t, not ALL of the time–but it is most of the time. You don’t have to let yourself be treated badly, you don’t have to let control of your work be taken from you, and you don’t have to agree to every edit.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
It seems, much to my surprise, that there’s something controversial about saying “Don’t make enemies of people who may be in a position to help you later on in the career you hope to have.” I had no idea that this was something people would disagree with.
(While I’m on the subject, a link in comments led me to this post by Jeanine Frost, a NYT bestseller and very nice person I had the pleasure of meeting once a couple of years ago. I hadn’t seen this post before I posted; I wish I had. Maybe if you don’t want to believe me, you’ll believe her.)
Several people brought up Roger Ebert, I’m not sure why. Roger Ebert is a professional reviewer. He is a good and successful reviewer. I just must have missed the part where Ebert started actively pursuing an acting career. Nobody said you can’t be a reviewer. Just that you should think before you decide to try to be both. When is the last time you saw, say, Sandra Bullock, reviewing a film?
I’ve been referred to as being “scared.” I wanted to clarify this. I am not fucking scared. Ask anyone who knows me; I believe they’ll tell you there’s very little I’m afraid of (and if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see more clarification). I carry two switchblades. Hell, I have “I am not afraid” tattooed on my arm.
Some people are shocked–yes, shocked!–that writers would actually not take time to help out someone who criticized their work in the past. You know what? Writers are people. Just like any other people. When is the last time you took time you couldn’t afford to help a stranger who’d been publicly critical of you in the past? Why does everyone think this is a matter of anger? It’s not. I’m not sure what’s unclear about the fact that my time is extremely limited. If I have two bound mss in front of me, I likely only have time to read one, and that’s with me barely scraping that time from my schedule. Let’s see. I can pick the mss of the person who in the past said they disliked this or that about me or my work, or I can pick up the mss of the person who never said a word about me, or complimented me. You tell me what person you know–who isn’t in the running for sainthood–who’s going to deliberately pick the one of the critical person. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about anger. It’s about practicality.
This isn’t about being nice, either, to be honest. or rather, it is, but only in so much as it’s about not actively being unpleasant to or critical of people who could have an influence on your career. I’m not saying you can’t ever speak out against injustice or rudeness. I think we should do so. I think if you’ve read my blog before you know that; hell, remember what happened in May? I saw another writer–one “above” me, in fact, with whom I was friendly, who I liked as a person, and who was friends with many of my friends–behaving in a manner I found shockingly bad, disgusting, even; aggressive, rude, and unpleasant to readers. I blogged about it. Did that writer see it? I know she did. Do I think she’ll ever help me out with anything? I don’t think she’d piss on me if I were on fire, frankly. Do I think it’s possible she showed my post to her editor, and her editor now thinks I’m a bitch? I know it’s a distinct possibility, yes.
But the fact is it was worth it to me, because it was something I felt very strongly about and believe very strongly in. Do I think writing a review of her book is so important that I’d be willing to alienate her? Fuck, no. It might be worth it to you. Make the choice.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Yesterday’s post netted me quite a few comments.
A few of those were from reviewers and aspiring writers who disagreed with me, to which I say, hey, do whatever you like. I’m not repeating an iron-clad rule of publishing; I’m giving advice based on my experience and the experiences of my friends/people I know. You can take it or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do. Your career isn’t my problem. And yes, you may very well find a writer who didn’t see your negative review or whatever. It’s a chance you’re perfectly welcome to take. I just think you have to be either a writer or a reviewer, and not both.
A few wondered if agents/editors would really turn down a good book because the author put down one of their other books. I have no idea. I am neither an agent nor an editor. What I am is someone who watched two agents and an agency intern say it would have a definite effect on their decision to request more, or whatever. Many others may very well disagree. Not all agents are tuned into the internet or give a fuck what happens on it. Again, it’s a risk you’re perfectly welcome to take. I have no dog in that fight; I’m just the messenger when it comes to agents/editors.
And yes, it is different outside of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers don’t have the same issues, because they don’t–I believe–have the same sort of community (although I still think saying something bad about someone’s book pretty much erases your chances of getting help from that person later). And as I said, established writers are more free to talk about the work of others. What’s good for the goose may well not be good for you, though. I just wanted people to think about it, and to be aware of what they might give up, because it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.
But that brings me to another point. Much to my chagrin, at least one person yesterday took my comments to mean it’s wrong to say things about publishers. That’s not the case, or at least not really, or rather, it depends. Publishers are not writers, and the dynamic is a bit different.
No, you don’t want to run around yelling “Random House are a bunch of sleazy-ass motherfuckers!!!!” at the top of your lungs (and I used RH because they’re my current publisher and I think everyone knows I love working with them a huge big amount and have loved everyone I met there). There is such a thing as discretion, and it is important. I know things about some editors or publishers that would give you serious pause; the odds of me repeating those things–especially to anyone not a close friend/not a writer–are pretty much zero. That’s why people tell me things, see, is because they know I won’t blab them all over the place.
But there’s discretion and there’s discretion, and there are publishers and there are publishers. And, frankly, there are careers and careers. Let’s be honest here; without sounding like Miss Braggy McBraggerton, I can speak my mind about certain things more freely than an aspiring writer can, or one just barely starting a career. For instance, I often ask questions of those who decide, after self-publishing a couple of their own books, that they are totes qualified to start a publisher because all you need is some software. I do this because I know a lot of newbie writers can’t ask those questions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so.
That has not always made me popular with those hey-hang-let’s-start-a-publisher people. I don’t give a fuck. They threaten me with “She better watch herself if she wants to make it in this business,” or whatever, to which I pee myself laughing because frankly, the odds of me needing to work with a brand-new epublisher with no experience or knowledge are, well, nonexistent. Sure, I’m totally going to decide I’m done with Random House and Pocket and all those other NY houses, oh, or any of the big ehouses where I’m friends with editors who I know would love to work with me, and rush out to Amateur Love epress begging them to publish my book. I don’t even write romance anymore (although like I said, I do have that one dark erotic I’m going to do, but it isn’t my focus at all). I’ve been moving away from romance for years, because it just doesn’t suit my voice/the stories I want to tell.
If they’re so unprofessional as to get upset about a few questions, why in the world would I want to work with them anyway?
Let’s look at an example. I was emailed a month or so ago by Celia Kyle. Celia sought me out because she knows I try to help new writers as much as I can (and indeed have been doing so for years). Celia is starting a new epublisher; well, it is and it isn’t a publisher. I think it’s actually a very clever idea, actually. It’s making covers and providing a marketplace and some distribution for authors who wish to self-publish. The house is called Summerhouse Publishing.
Celia contacted me because she’d been working on answering all of the questions asked on Writer Beware and wanted to know what other questions I might think of to ask; in other words, she wanted to make sure she had everything covered, and actively sought input on that. When a thread started about her publisher on Absolute Write, as they usually do, Celia popped in to answer questions in a calm, professional manner. Celia expected questions and wanted to answer them. Celia was glad we asked questions because she wanted to present her business in the best possible way. In doing so, Celia made her house look impressive and under control, a good choice for someone interested in what she’s doing.
Contrast that to a new house that gets pissy when asked questions and starts flinging insults and threats. Which do you think is more professional? Which do you think has a better chance at lasting?
And more importantly, which would you rather work with?
See, any house I would want to work with is going to respond to questions the way Celia did, because they know it’s just a part of doing business. They know, as the famous line goes, it’s not personal. It’s business.
Just like the author who responds calmly to reviews or doesn’t respond at all is the one you’d rather read or work with, because that’s the one who’s able to keep a professional distance (and understand that really, the number of readers involved in the online community is a tiny portion of readers overall), so it goes with publishers.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if they’re going to have witch-hunt hissy fits because I asked a few questions, I wouldn’t be caught dead working with them anyway.
And neither should you.
Yes, I have a few more options on the table, because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am lucky enough to have made some friends. That still doesn’t mean you’re forced to go with Amateur Love if you want to “get your foot in the door.” Please don’t, actually. If your work is good enough it will sell.
It also doesn’t mean that if you ask the owner of Amateur Love what her experience is, and her response is to get nasty and threaten you with the old “blacklist” canard, you should take it seriously. Because all those pros at other houses? They know Amateur Love’s owner is Amateur Hour, too. They don’t talk to her. If she does somehow contact them they shrug because they know she’s not a professional, too. Nobody cares what Amateur Hour’s owner says or thinks, so you don’t need to either. A house who’ll get grumpy over legitimate questions isn’t a house anybody wants to work with. Repeat it after me, and keep repeating until it sinks in.
If you’re treated badly at some amateur publisher, especially if it’s because you asked a few questions or whatever, for fuck’s sake speak up. Tell somebody, at least, somebody you trust. Register at AW under a pseudonym and tell your story there. Let people know, because you don’t deserve that. And don’t be scared of these people, either. They have no power over you. You will move on. (And if you don’t, well, maybe the trouble is you, to be honest.)
Questions are not critiques. Questions are not negatives; they are not criticisms. Yes, you need to watch what you say; what I’ve said above is not license to scream from the rooftops that your editor is a moron because she wants you to change a line of dialogue or whatever. Discretion is and always will be important. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat shit from some publishing bottom-feeder because you think if you don’t they’re going to call up very other publisher in the world and tell them to strike your name off their lists FOREVA.
There is nothing unprofessional about asking questions. Professionals know that. There’s a difference between asking legitimate questions and being truly unpleasant; learn it.
Any publisher worth working with? They already know. Be careful, yes. But don’t be scared.
A few other things: I’m very, very happy to let you all know that my editor has read Downside 4 and loves it! I have a few edits to do here and there-some her suggestions, some things I’ve come up with, as is usually the case–so I’m going to be working away on that, and hopefully I’ll have a release date soon. And a title!
On that subject, I’ve done a guest blog with a contest for signed copies of the three Downside books over at Book Lovers Inc. It’s about how hard it is for writers to wait for releases, too, so go check it out and enter the contest, which lasts until Feb 4th.
I’m about to start Downside 5, and another project, so busy busy busy.
Last night on Twitter the subject of a UF convention came up. I would love to go to one. I think someone should do one. Someone who, say, doesn’t have a bunch of books to write. Hint hint. I can’t believe nobody out there would want to get together with some pals and do this.
So to summarize:
*Feel free to ignore my advice if you don’t like it
*Discretion is the better part of valor, unless you’re being treated badly by someone totally unprofessional
*You could win books
*I’m very busy
*Someone needs to do a UF con
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 17th, 2011
Yay! Go check it out!
As I said before, it’s on Spreadshirt. Spreadshirt had the lowest prices of the three places of this type I looked at (the other two being Zazzle and CafePress) and they seemed to have the biggest variety as well, or at least they had more things I thought would be good to have. But as far as both of those go–pricing and variety–I don’t have a huge amount of say in them, so I did the best I could.
I did a lot of the designs myself–and it was really fun! if time-consuming–and all of the designs from the old store did carry over. Unfortunately most of those designs were/are too small for Spreadshirt’s specifications, so until I get bigger files I can’t put them on a lot of stuff. I also don’t have copies of those with white print, so I can’t put them on anything dark or black. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to do that, though.
There are two designs done by the fantastic and wonderful Michelle Rowen. She sent me the “Team Lex” and “Heart Terrible” designs as a surprise, which was so freaking cool. (Also, she managed to use actual art in hers, which I am not able to do. Whether that’s due to my crappy fake Photoshop program or my dunce-ness at computers, I don’t know, but I can’t do it.)
There’s a nice big section for the urban fantasy genre in general, which I think is pretty fun. I might grab myself a few of those to wear to cons! See, we UF readers etc. are indeed out there, and we are part of the community. Plus I just find them, well, fun, like I said, and I hope you do too.
I plan to add more designs periodically; of course when the fourth book is released I hope to put up a couple related to it, and so on. And as I’ve said before, if any of you find yourselves in the mood to play around, by all means send me what you’ve got, if you want!
A lot happened in the writing community this weekend, but I think it’s all been covered in plenty of detail. I’m just going to say that people who behave as though everyone should worship and admire them just because they say so, tend to not be very pleasant when people don’t in fact worship and admire them, but instead ask them to actually prove they’re worthy of it. And no matter how politely the questions are worded, they still behave as though they’ve just been urinated upon or something, and proceed to attack. Very nastily. It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of one of those attacks.
And those who do that sort of attacking? They very rarely change, and stop behaving in that fashion. This makes them dangerous to deal with or work with; they don’t care who they drag down with them.
Also, on a halfway different subject, Michele Lee made this for me, isn’t it great? (If you don’t know what it refers to, read here, specifically this line:
But it seems as if the comments and the criticisms are not edifying. If your goal is to be a boo-bird. Good job.
I freely admit I find the phrase/epithet “Boo-bird” to be completely awesome. I plan to use it in a book one of these days. It’s too cute to avoid. A ridiculous thing for a grown, supposedly professional woman to say in a supposedly professional context, but charming nonetheless.
Anyway. Michele Lee made this for me:
Adorable, isn’t it?
I myself made this:
Yes, I am embarking on a new career. My darling friend Jane Smith over at How Publishing Really Works (and if you are a writer I cannot recommend her blog highly enough) is coming with me; she will be the Boo-bird CEO, and I will be VP, at Boo-birds Inc.
If you’d like to be part of Boo-bird Inc. too, just take a card! Put it on your site or blog, print it and keep it in your wallet, tattoo it on you, whatever you like.
So, to sum up:
*Lots of new t-shirts and stuff which I hope you’ll all like, at the new Downside Market!
*Chicks named Michelle (or variations thereof) have mad Photoshop skills.
*People who love themselves a little too much tend to keep doing so, and often use very bad judgement because they are convinced they’re right, and especially that they matter and everyone cares about them/what they think. (This is also true when, as is often but not always the case, they’re the sort of people who lie and “pad” their credentials so, for instance, checking over a quarterly employee newsletter for typos for an architecture firm becomes “being a journalist and editor in the architecture industry.”)
*I am a big old boo-bird.
What Stace had to say on Friday, November 19th, 2010
I’m supposed to blog about copyright today, because I promised my wonderful friend Jane from How Publishing Really Works that I would. Of course, I ended up oversleeping (even for me; hey, I was up writing until five this morning) and getting sidetracked by a million different things, so it’s perhaps too late now for my post to do any good, but here it is anyway.
(This reminds me; I don’t suppose any of you out there reading this happen to be car salesmen in South Florida? Anything like that? BFF Cori needs to buy a new car, and I’d love to be able to send her to someone trustworthy, by which I mean one of my readers since of course nobody rocks harder than my readers. So if you’re in a position to help, contact me through the site, and maybe you’ll get special signed books or Seekrit Inside Info or something too.)
So. Copyright. This is one of those topics that’s so big and so important I almost don’t even know where to start. The simple fact is, copyright is what enables me to do what I do. Copyright is the reason I’m sitting here with my laptop–my laptop that copyright bought (used, because it’s a Mac and they’re fricking expensive new, but still). Copyright is the reason there are Downside stories; it’s the reason they exist, the reason those characters and that world exist.
I’ve touched on the subject of piracy before, notably in my post about trusting readers and not treating them like shit. And honestly, I don’t know that I can really say it any differently or any more clearly than I did then; piracy is a financial bite, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Yes, I was lucky, and I got offers for more Downside books. I know quite a few people whose series aren’t continuing because of low sales, but funnily enough, free copies of their books have been downloaded thousands of times. It’s all well and good for huge bestsellers to be blase about piracy; the rest of us need every sale to keep our careers going, and it frankly makes me angry to see them being cavalier like that instead of thinking back to the beginnings of their careers, or thinking how much of a difference their voice could make to those who are struggling.
But this isn’t about piracy, either. I know what all of the excuses are, the “They wouldn’t have bought it anyway,” as if that makes it okay for them to steal, or the “it actually increases sales,” or whatever. I don’t care. Yes, that’s right. I don’t actually care. To me it’s very simple: those stories and characters belong to me. You’re using them without paying (or going through a legal channel like a library or borrowing from a friend or whatever). Therefore you are stealing from me. Period.
See, at its base, that’s what copyright is. Copyright is a way to mark ownership of something intangible. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, no, but a written story can be. A film can be. A drawing can be. Copyright enables artists to live off of their skills.
I can’t draw to save my life, seriously. It’s not a talent I have. I’m lucky if I manage to make my stick figures look human. Most people I know aren’t great artists. I think people who are deserve some sort of recognition for that; they deserve our appreciation, our recognition. Visual artists beautify our world, quite simply. Every time you see a logo, a design, a pattern; every painting or drawing, every piece of public sculpture, you are seeing something made possible by copyright, and you are seeing something that adds something special to our society, something that reflects who and what we are.
Seriously, think for a minute about a world with no visual art. All buildings are just plain flat squares. Billboards are just black words on white backgrounds, all in Times New Roman or something. There are no textiles in this world; there’s very little color. No attempt has been made to make anything look attractive or inviting.
Yeah, I know, I’m stretching the point. But still. Think about how depressing that world would be, and as you do, think about how much artists add to our lives every single day. Not a day goes by that art doesn’t enrich our lives and our world.
And all those people ask in return is credit for the work they do, for the efforts they make. Just like you expect credit for the work you do; and really, with some exceptions, is your work really any less ephemeral? I know lots of people who would kill to have your job; does that mean I can decide you should be willing to do it for free, and withhold payment from you?
But I believe this is a slippery slope. I believe copyright is something fundamental, that it is in large part what makes our society work, what makes our world work. Yes, there are flaws, of course; I would never even try to imply our society and/or world is perfect, or even that it works particularly well. But copyright is part of the good stuff; it’s one of the positive forces, one of the better elements.
Why? For all of the reasons above. Copyright gives artists time to create and hone their skills. I’m sorry, but contrary to popular belief not everyone can draw, not everyone can write, not everyone can sculpt. I might have the brains to be a surgeon if I applied myself and studied hard, but my hands are simply not steady enough and my vision is terrible. That vision keeps me from being a commercial pilot as well. My height keeps me from being a model or a professional basketball player (yeah, I know, it’s not just my height that keeps me from being a model, but let’s focus on the point, shall we?).
I believe that if we continue to allow our copyright laws to be stepped on, if we continue to act as if they don’t matter, and we continue to buy into this bullshit copyright-is-evil line that’s just an excuse to benefit from other peoples’ work without lifting a finger, we will eventually find there’s nothing left worth stealing. There would be no impetus to create it, frankly.
Because a world without copyright, a world which doesn’t enforce copyright, is a world which doesn’t value art, and doesn’t value artists. Far from commoditizing art, copyright protects art from becoming just a commodity. Copyright recognizes that art is special, that it deserves its own set of protections and rules; that because of the way it enriches our society and changes lives it should be and is separate from other things, and gets special treatment. Copyright recognizes that society has a special responsibility to protect its art, and that society in general benefits from it in immeasurable ways.
A world which doesn’t value art, which doesn’t value artists, which believes copyright is ridiculous, is a world where people are seen as soulless, where individuality doesn’t matter. These people claiming to be rogue rebels, bravely thumbing their noses at copyright laws because art should be for everyone, are in fact trying to stamp on art, devalue it; they are in fact refusing to accept that anyone has anything special inside them, something that’s theirs and their alone, and that there’s any value in expressing that. They’re insisting that everyone is exactly the same, basically, and that there’s no difference between a Renoir and my stick figures. It’s not democratization and it’s not sticking it to The Man. It’s claiming that there’s nothing special or unique or worthwhile in the human soul, it’s claiming that people are worth nothing, and only tangible items have real value.
You’re not being a rebel because you devalue ideas and the expression of them. You’re not being a rebel because you deny artists the chance to make a living. You’re certainly not being a rebel because your response to their need to make a living is to tell them to get a real job, which is exactly what you’re doing when you say things like “You should be willing to do it for free.” Wow, maybe next you’ll tell them to turn down that music and get a decent haircut, huh? You crazy maverick.
Do you honestly think it’s rebellious to treat only things you can hold or taste as if they’re worth anything? Do you honestly think you’re somehow smashing the state by refusing to support artistic expression, by acting as though you’re entitled to the sweat of others’ brows and the fruits of their labor without giving anything in exchange? Do you really believe you’re somehow scoring one for the little guy by devaluing humanity to the point where not only are the souls, thoughts, ideas, and expressions of others are worthless, but where there isn’t even any legal protection in place for those souls, thoughts, ideas, and expressions? Yes, wow, how very subversive of you, treating art as worthless and acting as if other people exist solely to entertain you.
If you want to pirate, go ahead. If you want to steal, go ahead. If you want to devalue art, act as if the world owes you whatever you want, treat other people like commodities, you go ahead.
But don’t fucking pretend it has anything to do with freedom or rebellion, because it doesn’t. It has to do with your own selfishness and sense of entitlement, and in that you’re no different from any of those corporate heads you claim to be so disgusted by. You’re not hurting them. You’re hurting people just like you, and you don’t care as long as you get to fiddle while Rome burns. Good for you.