Chuck Wendig's blog is always good for shaking the proverbial writing tree and seeing what hits the ground. This week's entry by the talented Kameron Hurley reminds us that all publishers, epub or traditional, are seeing the biz differently than you. They see it literally as a business and your book, and you by extension, as a product and a method of marketing.
If they don't see you that way, they won't be a publisher for long.
With that in mind, I've got some quick rules of thumb for you about publishers and your writing career. There are always exceptions to these, some of which prove the rule.
- A Writer's Vision is for marketing copy only: If you talk about your vision -- as in how a publisher doesn't get your "vision" or your genius -- it's a clue that you don't get that a novel is a collaborative project. A good editor and publisher can be a godsend on cutting the chaff to make your book a leaner, meaner storytelling machine.
- Copy Editors edit, Editors advocate : When you meet an editor at conference or con, you'll meet your story's champion. They will try to do their best for the story, not you, your story. So while that means they might go to bat for the story against the publisher, they'll also go to bat for the story against you if you insist on keeping things that distract from the focus of the story.
- Self-Publish? Congrats you're a publisher: Back in my early days, it was hard enough to wrap my head around the idea that proofreading wasn't done by editors -- they've got enough to handle (advocating, profit/loss statements, finding more quality stories). They hire copy editors to handle the proofing. And you should too. If you can't afford one, find a volunteer. Same goes for covers and probably marketing as well.
- Volunteers take their sweet time: There's that old adage that you can have two out of three things when working on a project, either fast, cheap or good. If you're getting a volunteer to help (especially people you shanghai in with promises of "exposure.") then prepare for them to take their time. They have lives and are doing you a favor.
- Consider yourself on a 10 year plan: If you look up any "New" Writer's award, you'll find a good decade of practice and exposure behind them. Some wrote in fanfic, or advertising or in other fields like RPGs or non-fiction. You are in for the long haul buddy.
- Writing may always be your part-time gig: There's more and more scuttlebutt that the days of a full-time novel writer maybe coming to a close, or that it's reaching a long nadir of sorts. I say this not to discourage, but to help brace you for the long slog ahead.
- Paid writing is paid writing -- if that's what you want: You may find that if you really want that writing lifestyle, you'll have branch out in ways that keep you at the keyboard, but not necessarily doing what you dreamed of. Fiction novel writing is one of the toughest gigs to get and there's more luck involved than most people are willling to admit. Non-fiction, advertising, how-tos, pretty much everything pays better with more frequency than a novel.
- Business 101 is not Ethics 101: And Ethics 101 is that doing something legal is not the same as doing something that's ethical. As Ms. Kameron Hurley can attest, read your contracts and assume that publisher's know you're going to fight that boilerplate contract that tries to have you sell all of your rights in perpetuity for $500. Or that if you're an artists that negotiates doing your own book cover, then get paid for it as a separate item, otherwise you just did work for free.
- Don't write for the market, but that is the harder road: You're going to write your next novel for a minimum of two years, maybe more. You have to love what you're doing or you're lose steam. Sometimes what you think is cool isn't a slam dunk for the marketeers, and that's all right, but know you've got an uphill battle (Says the guys who is trying to pitch a Weird Western.)
- Live more, read more, write more: Seeing how real people live and interact, seeing how other writers tackle the same stories as you do and seeing yourself improve will help you inch closer to perfecting your craft.
- Bonus Round! Read and write out of your comfort zone: Creativity is like a body that needs food and exercise. And just as eating and excising the same every day short changes a body, the same goes for your writing. Try new things and stretching yourself, you may discover unexpected inspiration and new tricks.
Now go fourth, my writing comrades and write!