Tag Archives: JK Rowling

Gatekeepers of Publishing: Where are you now?

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The world of publishing is changing. This change has been foretold for years, but the seismic shifts have really taken place in the first few months of this year, 2012. The key seems to have been the simplification of the self-publishing process, making publishing an e-book something that almost anyone can do.

There have been strident complaints and dire warnings, of course, and not all of them have come from those institutions and individuals that stand to lose out in the new world. Many writers are warning that the flood of new published books contains a higher percentage of dross, of ill-considered, badly-written, unedited drivel than was previously unleashed.

Well, yes. Obviously.

In the pre-digital publishing age, to get your book into print you really had to do some work. Aside from the initial legwork of putting together the right 100,000 words, you had to impress an agent, likely as not. That agent had to approve of your manuscript enough to take you one, then work with an editor to get your manuscript into the best possible shape. Then the three of you put that manuscript out to tender for publication. Then the whole bunch of you, writer, editor, agent, publisher, would have to start trumpeting the arrival of your baby, and touring the known world to drum up trade.

And the likelihood is, you’d have a to wait quite a while before the money you earn from your book outgrew the advance you’d been paid.

So all this meant being a published author was a tough job, tough to get, tough to keep and really tough to make a living from. It also meant that readers could expect a  certain standard when they picked a book off the shelves. You may not like the story, but the spelling would be right, the grammar would be good, the plot should be without holes, the flow would be right – page eighteen would not skip to page twenty five. The mystic “They” would ensure these things.

But now…. Well, if you download an ebook you have no guarantees. None. Because anyone can upload anything. I know this to be true, because I did it. I took some old stories I had written more than a decade ago, I formatted them with a few clicks of the mouse, made a book cover in less time than the formatting took and uploaded the whole package to Amazon. The whole process (barring the writing, which was already done) took less than a day. I didn’t need anyone’s permission, didn’t have to have my grammar and spelling checked (other than to get rid of Word’s little red lines, of course) and didn’t need to meet anyone’s standards to get published.

And this IS a bad thing. In the process of selling my own ebook, I have bought other people’s. Very few are as good a printed books. Most are worse. A lot worse. Even the one I bought from a company purporting to be an online publishing company, pushing a brand and touting years of experience in publishing had basic errors in typography, spelling, grammar and craft. The story, to be blunt, was rubbish.

So the question is, where are the gatekeepers? If no one is preventing the publishing of bad content, what will stop the flood of sub-standard material? Initially, nothing. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s easy. All those people who were envious of J.K. Rowling’s rise from single Mom to multi-millionaire now have the chance to put their talent where their motuhs are. No one is stopping them from writing and publishing their own novels, no one is going to stop publication because they “don’t get how brilliant my novel is”. No, you write that puppy and put it out there. Amazon have even devised the KDP Select scheme to help you promote your book by offering it for FREE for a limited period!

And this is where the gatekeepers will arise. Not in corporate form, but in the person of the public. Because bad content can only sell for so long. People will take all kinds of things for free, but if you’re pushing a bad product, word will get around. Before long, the good reviews are going to be the first things prospective readers look for. We will learn to protect ourselves from bad content, and those who haven’t got the ability to work at their writing will fall by the wayside.

All writers say at some point in their career, that they aren’t doing it for the money. Well, rejoice! For now, if all you want is to have your work published and available, you can do that. You have the freedom to publish and not make a penny. But if you’re looking to become a famous and wealthy author, it’s still going to take work, it’s still going to require knowledge of the craft, study, perseverance and co-operation with other professionals to produce the best possible content.

And once you’re done with the preparation, you either engage ANOTHER professional, or you become your own salesman and work your tail off a second time.

I planned this post in my head yesterday, then forgot all about it until I read the article linked below.

http://www.graspingforthewind.com/2012/03/16/are-gatekeepers-disappearing

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Is it the writing, or the having written?

Do you love the process..........or the finished product?

Some days it seems that everyone loves writing. Certainly a glance at the numbers for “Freshly Pressed” (The best of 337,656 bloggers, 327,229 new posts, 327,146 comments, & 79,537,749 words posted today on WordPress.com, as of this morning) suggest that there are a LOT of wordsmiths out there.
But what is it we love? Statistics will tell you that the number of writers out there who can point to their novel on the bookshelf is very small, and the number who can point to it on sale in the shops is even smaller. Does that mean that the bulk of writers do it for the love of the craft? Do we love the writing, the rush as the words drop into place on the page or screen, or is it the feeling of accomplishment, the sigh of satisfaction as we type “The End”? Is it the writing or the having written?

The beauty of the internet age, as Kristen Lamb will tell you, is that authors are now available to their readers in a way they never have been before. Ok, so you may not be able to drop JK Rowling an email to say how much you admire her work, but most savvy authors have a website, or a blog, or a Facebook page, or a Twitter account or all of the above. Because of this, when pondering the question above, it was possible to approach successful writers and put the question to them. They didn’t have to respond, of course, but here’s what the ones who did have to say:

Jane Espenson (Writer for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Torchwood and many others) : I love both. But I hate the starting-writing.

James Moran (Writer for Doctor Who, Torchwood, the feature films “Severance” and ‘Cockneys Vs Zombies” and many more projects) :Both. I love writing, sometimes it’s hard, but it’s great fun. And I like the sense of achievement when I finish something.

Jason Arnopp :Writer/exec of @Stormhouse_film, Doctor Who/Sarah Jane plays, Friday The 13th novel, TAPS film Ghost Writer.   Hi! I love those special times when the writing almost feels like it’s handling itself. Everything else feels hard work

For a wider cross section of writers, here are some of the responses to the question posted on Twitter:

@AKyleWilliamsAmanda Kyle Williams

The process is excruciating. Finishing a draft,revising-that’s when the magic happens 4 me – & getting an accepted manuscript.

@bjsmithB.J. Smith

I’d have to say both: the writing and the having written. Both have their own rewards

@JessicaThomasIN Jessica Thomas

I like having written better than the process of writing. Would rather be editing than writing.

@Tiffany_A_WhiteTiffany White

To me, there’s nothing greater than the feeling of accomplishment. It keeps me putting my fingers to the keyboard

@Claire_KintonClaire Kinton

think I love the editing best, great satisfaction getting the story out but polishing it up is best 4 me x

@PattiYagerPatricia Yager

Definitely the writing. Being in the zone is awesome.

@Julie_GloverJulie Glover

I love most the process of writing; everything outside the page disappears. It’s hard but engaging work.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that we all have different answers, or maybe we should be surprised how similar some answers are. The question seems to show that writing is more than the physical act of committing the words to the page or screen – it’s the evolution of drafts, the crafting of a final manuscript.

And we love it.

Feel free to pitch in with YOUR response to the question if you didn’t pick it up on Twitter. And which famous author, living or dead, would you love to trade Tweets with? The best answer gets a free copy of my e-book “Writing a play for  Community Theatre”.

What did I just say?

Nothing on here about my lunch.....

Facebook status lines are weird. Some people use them like Twitter feeds, monitoring their daily activity: “Breakfast! Coffee time! Hey, I bought a doughnut! Lunch! Woo Hoo!”*   Some people use them to keep us all abreast of the news, reposting news articles or good blogs. And some people treat them like they are a portal into their very soul, and they try really hard to make each status update something memorable, something to make you pause and go “Wow! What wisdom! I feel truly blessed.”

So, with the death of Osama bin Laden, we received a bunch of jokes (“Farewell Hide and Seek champion of 2011” being the most repeated, although I laughed when a friend posted that Donald Trump was demanding to see the death certificate….) we heard about someone’s lunch, we had many links to press reports, and we had THAT quote. You know the…er…MLK one:

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy

It reached us via the status bars of a few friends and we reposted it, wanted to join the legion of super-cool folks, but also agreeing with the sentiment behind the words. Seeing the baying mob outside the White House was disturbing, and we wanted to add our voices to the people saying “He was bad, he was wrong, I’m glad he won’t be influencing any more people (directly, though I’m sure his voice will be used by others) but this carnival over his death isn’t right.” You know what it reminded me of? The guys who danced in the streets burning American flags after 9/11.

So we reposted the words, and later, reading Twitter, I saw Penn Jillette apologising for not checking his quotes thoroughly, and saying he didn’t make it up. He mentioned Martin Luther King, but I didn’t make the connection. Then this morning a friend commented on my status, saying the attribution may have been in error, and sure enough, today I find this post:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/05/the-shy-woman-whose-words-accidentally-became-martin-luther-kings/238309/

(Courtesy of Richard James)

So folks, two points to take away today: The power of well written words, for one. Jessica Dovey thought about her reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden and wrote something simple but heartfelt. I bet she worked hard on those words before pressing that button. Secondly, the power of Social Media. Her friends liked what they read (and okay, maybe they misunderstood where it came from, but I think they’d have taken it up all the same) and they sent it on….and it travelled around the world. JK Rowling became an international sensation with a series of books. Jessica Dovey became a worldwide sensation with a sentence.

Have YOU unintentionally misquoted someone? Who corrected you? Do you have to put people straight when they get a quote wrong? Or better yet, have you said something on Social Media that you later saw reposted by someone you don’t know?

Damian Trasler is a playwright, Script Reader and househusband, though not always in that order. He once wrote something that was quoted by someone else, which was “Yes, but what did you think of the PLAY, Mrs Lincoln?” No one gets it. He wrote a book about writing plays which you can download and buy HERE

*and I’m not saying this is wrong, just…well, before FaceBook, would you have rung up your friends to pass on this information? “Hey, Tanya, I just bought a doughnut! Yeah, it’s frosted and…You’re in a meeting? I’ll call back. And tell you about my sandwich.”