1. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US

    Is there only one right way to approach publishing?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Steerpike, Nov 20, 2013.

    Given that my prior link to a Dean Wesley Smith post has upset some traditionalists on the forum, I thought I'd follow up with another - this one directed to the idea (which some people also hold dear) that there is one correct way to approach publishing.

    You can find the link here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9718

    I note that he even addresses how people learn the process of writing, and makes what I think is a sensible statement regarding advice in general:

    Despite the sense embodied in the sentiments above, you'll find plenty of people on writing forums who are happy to tell you there is one way to do things, and it is their way. Why do people buy into this? To quote from the piece again:

    He then goes on to address specific 'rules' about rewriting, what editors like or don't like, and so on.

    For any traditionalists for whom the sacred cows of the industry are truly creatures to be revered, I apologize in advance.
     
  2. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    You obviously haven't read the many posts I've made discussing SP as a viable route for authors. But, you know... carry on... I know you will anyway.
     
  3. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    Thanks for the substantive contribution to the thread.

    Next.
     
    Okon and Thomas Kitchen like this.
  4. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    It depends on what your goals are. For example, if you want to win prestigious awards, traditional publishing is the way to go; I don't think any self-published book has ever won the Pulitzer or National Book Award. If you want to get published by one of the "Big Six" publishers, getting an agent is the way to go. If you want to teach literature or creative writing at a major university, it's better to list traditionally published books on your CV than self-published books.

    Of course there are other reasons why someone would choose one over the other. At the end of the day, it's up to the writer to do the research and decide what's best for him.

    For the record, I'm going the traditional route. How else am I going to win the Nobel Prize? ;)
     
  5. AJC
    Offline

    AJC Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2013
    Messages:
    149
    Likes Received:
    60
    I'm new to publishing, so I have a question about this article. Is Mr. Smith talking about novels only? I don't see very many self published stories, but I do see a lot of self published novels on Amazon.
     
  6. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    My guess is he's speaking primarily of novels. I have seen self-published short stories on Amazon - Kindle Singles, I think they're called(?). I have no idea how well they do.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    I think it's because people crave structure, no matter how repressed it may be. I know I crave it in pretty much everything in life, and I used to believe in that trash as well - in fact, it was only when I had experience writing my first novel that I realised, "Wait a minute, what are these guys talking about? I could go about it this way instead." I started writing that novel only two years ago, and I can already see exactly how much I've grown.

    Anyway, I digress. People want a one-way thing of doing things (aren't I specific? ;)) because at least it gives them something more solid to aim for, rather than "I want to be traditionally published and I can do this in a number of different ways." I'll be honest here and say this wheedles out the good, or at least determined, writers from the wannabees - after all, I didn't complete any piece of creative writing until my first novel, and for that I had to throw all the 'advice' I'd been given out the window. This sentence from the article tells it all, in a nutshell:

    "The truth is that nothing in this business is set in stone. Nothing."

    Yup! But this is where the spark - nay, the fire - of creativity comes into play. You get to tell your story the way you want it to be told. If it is written well, there is a good chance it will be published. Don't worry about breaking the current norms or trends, because people have done it before. A fitting quote here (yes, I do like them) would be one from Benjamin Franklin, who says:

    "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning."

    As for myself, I have often wondered whether I would like to get into self-publishing, as I would be interested in advertising and marketing my own book, at least to try it. Maybe I'll write and plan a book which I'll know from the outset I want to self-publish, and see where it leads me...

    Thanks for the link. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  8. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    Nonsense. This pretty well tells the quality of the article. Any book you might pick up on writing technique says at the beginning that there are no rules and that anyone looking for them is wasting their time. So this is a straw man, a target set up a foot away so he can hit it dramatically.

    But there actually is one specific way of achieving publication—the secret everyone is searching for:

    Step one: Learn your craft. Learn what a story is, what its elements are, and how they work together. Learn how to end the beginning and begin the ending. Learn the things a reader wants to know quickly on entering any scene. Learn about scene goals and black moments. Learn how to balance action and introspection so as to avoid either melodrama or boredom. Learn everything the pro takes for granted. Learn the business side of the profession and how your customer, the acquiring editor, views a submission.

    In other words, become a pro if you expect to work as one. As with any profession, it’s all in the becoming.

    Step two, to be done concurrently with step one: write and read. Write to train your reflexes and make the techniques you’ve learned automatic, so you can focus on the storytelling, not remembering to use or avoid such-and-such. You want to make them as automatic as the ones you hammered into your skull in school for twelve years.

    Read, because now, with educated eyes you will see the use of the techniques you’ve learned—the ones that were invisible till you educated yourself—and can see the different ways other writers use them.

    And that’s it. That’s the secret. Do that and you’ll be writing on the level that makes it possible to be published. And if you do elect to self-release your work you won’t be embarrassing yourself without knowing it. And who knows. Maybe you’ll actually sell a few copies.
     
    Tesoro and MatiaHeslep like this.
  9. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    None of the things you listed guarantee publication, at least if you decide to go the traditional publishing route. Publishers look for marketability in addition to good writing. Sadly, learning the craft and being good at it isn't always enough.
     
  10. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    Of course not. Nothing can. But fail to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge and you can pretty well guarantee you won't be published.

    Good writing is marketable writing. That's what makes it good from a publisher, and a reader's POV. If a reader isn't willing to pay money they had to earn to read it, the only people calling it good are professors of literature.
     
  11. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I disagree. A lot of popular books are poorly written. I think publishers have realized that as long as the story appeals to a wide audience, the writing itself doesn't have to be good.
     
  12. badgerjelly
    Offline

    badgerjelly Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2013
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Earth
    Utter nonsense. Capitalistic BS

    Do it because you love writing.

     
  13. AJC
    Offline

    AJC Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2013
    Messages:
    149
    Likes Received:
    60
    I have a Kindle, so I might look at a few of these stories to see how they compare to traditionally published stories.
     
  14. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    Some of them are actually by traditionally-published authors, so I suspect those will compare favorably. I know Lee Child had some available, as well as some other well-known names. I imagine there is a lot of dreck available as well.
     
  15. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    Interesting. Lots and lots of people buy and enjoy them and you say they're poorly written. That poor author must weep all the way to the bank.

    The publisher didn't think it was poorly written. The people who paid to read it didn't think so. Who did, and what makes them more knowledgeable than the reader who was the targeted audience?

    As far as I'm concerned, anyone who cannot attract readers in as great a number hasn't the right to pass judgment as to the quality of the writing. Never forget that the goal of publishing is to get people to buy the product, just as it was Shakespeare's job to be certain there were asses resting on all the seats of the theater.

    It's comforting to point a finger at someone and say they're unworthy. But personally, I wish I wrote that badly.
     
    Tesoro and shadowwalker like this.
  16. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    But then you're doing it for your own pleasure. Nothing wrong with that, but if you post such things you're pleasuring yourself in public. And you know what they say about people who do that. :eek:
     
  17. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    sorry, but that's just nonsense...

    bad writing is simply bad writing to anyone who knows enough about the basics of good writing to be able to tell the difference, be they bestselling authors, or just intelligent, discerning readers... or professional editors whose business is correcting poor writing...

    since you're not a bestselling author, are you claiming you have no right to say there's an unignorable difference in the writing quality of works by nabokov and steinbeck, compared to those of dan brown and james redfield?... or that anything by asimov, heinlein, or poe is better written than stephanie myers' dreck? [see just 3 pitiful examples of the latter below]

    ...have you no right to say this is a hopeless mess?
    ...or that the dialog tag here has a voice jumping forward?
    ...or that there's a muddled mix of tenses here?
    ...or are you unable to see how dreadfully written those sentences are, compared to 'good writing' no matter who wrote them?
     
  18. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    Yes.
     
  19. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Perhaps. But the publisher also realized the book was marketable.

    Your average reader doesn't know the difference between good writing and bad writing, so his opinion don't really matter to me.

    A lot of these popular books pander to the lowest common denominator, so I would argue that there is no target audience.

    If you mean "like-minded people," then I can agree. Not all writers are writing for the general public.
     
  20. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    So many stupid readers out there... o_O
     
  21. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    I don't agree. The average reader knows very well whether she is enjoying the book or not. If so, then saying the writing is bad is a bit silly, if the purpose of the book is to entertain. To the extent that it accomplishes its goal effectively, it is 'good' writing, whether more literary-minded folks could nitpick the technical aspects to death or not.

    If the purpose of writing is to connect with and satisfy an audience, then I suspect that the writers who have proven to be most "good" are ones that literary scholars would find plenty of fault with. But that doesn't change the fact that those writers have done an excellent job engaging a large number of readers (and someone like Meyer, who is routinely (and rather unfairly) criticized has managed to successfully engage, and successfully tell her story to, more readers than a combined dozen you could pick from the pages of the New Yorker :) ).
     
  22. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    For me, enjoying a book doesn't make the writing good. I enjoyed the first Harry Potter book, though I thought it wasn't that well-written. The converse is true as well. I didn't really enjoy Proust's Swann's Way (thought it was boring), but his prose is some of the best I've ever come across.

    I suppose this boils down to what you think the goal of literature is. For most people, it's a form of entertainment. For me, a good book (or any writing piece for that matter) should not only entertain but also enlighten.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  23. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,079
    Likes Received:
    5,275
    Location:
    California, US
    For me, it varies depending on the book I am reading. If I'm reading the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, or one of Michael Connelly's Bosch novels, my goal is simply to be entertained. If that happens, I consider the book good. Goal accomplished.

    If I am reading Nabokov, or Roberto Bolano, or Joseph Conrad, I not only expect the book to hold my interest and entertain me, but also to provide intellectual stimulation.

    Depending on my mood, I might go either way.
     
  24. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    You just told most of the people in this forum that they don't know the difference between good and bad writing. That's pretty damn insulting. You also told them that no one's opinion matters but your own. Maybe that's not what you meant, but it was what you said, and hardly seems in the spirit this site was built to support. How can you have a meaningful discussion of writing if your view is that no one's point of view is valid unless it agrees with yours?

    I don't know about you, but I've not learned a thing from people who agree with me.
     
  25. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    First of all, given that this is a writing forum, I assume that most of the members are better than your average reader. Second, I value the opinions of well-read people who read critically and can distinguish between good and bad writing (again, a lot of the members here fit these criteria). Saying a book is good simply because it's entertaining isn't helping anyone.

    As an analogy, think of how many people can truly appreciate music and all its nuances. Your average listener certainly can't.
     

Share This Page