The Fine Line Between Heeding Advice and Selling Out Creatively

I blogged on this topic today at Do Some Damage, but I thought there may be some writers here who'd find this interesting.  With the rise of epublishing, I think one of the major concerns some people have is how to maintain quality.  What about us, as writers?  What happens when we get so close to our own work that we can't see the forest for the trees?  How do you know when you're just being stubborn and proud, or when you're standing your ground creatively for the right reasons?

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Nice to see you back here, Sandra.

 

I didn't quite follow the relevance of e-publishing in your blog.  Speaking for myself, I control quality very carefully, but there comes a time when the author asks herself, "Why am I taking all this time? Nobody is paying me for it. Other people are making excellent livings selling mediocre stuff in digital form and uploading every single draft or rejected ms. from their long career in the past. Meanwhile, I haven't seen a penny for ages, have, in fact, never made a living even in the good times."  Add to that the fact that most bestsellers prove that readers aren't very discriminating.  It's bound to have an effect on one's work habits.

 

The most noticeable effect of all this has been that I no longer prize a contract from one of the big 6 or insist on the thrill of holding my book in my hand.

Well, I think with e-publishing, it's very easy to write something and just toss it up.  Unedited, or with minimal editing.  Many manuscripts don't go through that same breathing process they used to.  Sometimes, many months after the fact, you look at something you've written and can easily see all the ways you could change it to make it better.  

 

I think it's just our own professionalism that will make the difference, and that's where authors who've worked with NY editors will have an advantage in the e-publishing world.

My NY editors haven't been stellar, on the whole.

That isn't exactly what I mean, though.  We're just more familiar with every step of the process when it comes to a full edit, and all the aspects of bringing a book to print.  It gives an added layer of understanding when it comes to how to polish a book.

 

My agent typically edits me more than anyone, save my husband. 

My agent doesn't edit.  I think all of our experiences are different.  I have had a couple of exceptional editors.  Both were British.  And I've briefly had a good one here in the States.  The rest were to varying degrees unhelpful.  
I think those editorial services and book doctors are already springing up!

Sales!

 

If you get lots of them, you took the advice under consideration yet balanced it with your own creative integrity.

 

If you sell squat, you sold out and/or are too stubborn.

Yeah, that's the truth, isn't it!  We do seem to feel successful authors are sell-outs.  Could be the exact opposite.

It's a challenge to walk the line.

The problem with e-publishing is that there is an unharnessed opportunity for unedited works to be, well, published. Not everyone maintains the same professional level of quality control or is able to remain unbiased/objective about their own work especially if you've been immersed in the project for a long time). And if too much weak work floods the market, it makes it harder for the quality work to rise above the din.

That being said, I have writer friends that have sent in identical manuscripts to agents/editors and received completely different advice from so called industry professionals. It is a subjective business.

So, I guess, the trick is to make sure you have a second (third, fourth...) set of trustworthy eyes review your work and offer honest feedback; be willing to graciously accept said advice; and differentiate between valid concerns and subjective comments.

Easier said than done.

Sandra, feel free to edit this!

Oh, I know all about the varying responses from editors for the same work!  And I think that reflects the subjective nature of book publishing, because tastes vary.  

 

With that said, proper spelling and use of punctuation is something to strive for.  

 

I once had an author offer a review copy through Spinetingler.  We were going through a standard auto-accept phase, with no guarantee the books would be read or reviewed.  So, I actually started this particular book.  Wasn't terribly impressed, not enough to be hooked, but still in the early stages so I hadn't given up on it.  Then we got another email from the author, saying based on the feedback from the review copies he'd rewritten the first chapter and it was attached as a pdf to be read instead of the first chapter in the arc.  I dropped the book immediately - not because he was self published, but because if I'm asked for a review I expect the book to be reasonably finished.  I wasn't asked to critique the book or edit it, but apparently, all those other "reviews" he got he considered feedback.

 

Crazy.

I'm starting to understand the agent/editor's lament that so much of what they receive is simply not ready. And its too bad 'cause it clogs up the slush piles for the more diligent writers.

Hopefully, e-publishing won't end up the same way.

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