So as mentioned previously, last Wednesday I was on a panel at our local SFF writer’s group, talking about author platforms along with co-panellists Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Chris Andrews. It wasn’t a super-formal panel, and I didn’t take notes, but I’m sure some of the discussion will be of interest to some people, so I’ve done my best to recap the salient points below…
One of the things I find heartbreaking about reviews is when readers critique an aspect of one of my books that is the result of being compelled by my editor to do something I knew was wrong.
Moira J. Moore on the unspoken tension.
The reality about editors is that, like authors, they exist at all stages of their craft and that “their craft” is just as subjective,1 which can lead to “not even wrong” scenarios. Basically, you want it one way, the editor wants it another. Whoever “wins”, you both loose the second a reader criticizes the contentious aspect, even if twenty others praise it (brains are funny that way).
So it goes, I suppose.
- At least when it comes to things that aren’t, say, copyediting. ^
Literary fiction was, in all seriousness, established by the CIA during the Cold War—it belongs to the state. As such, an independent press with no ties to the state should inherently not be interested in “literary fiction.” Semantically!
M Kitchell on… conspiracies?
I think this is straight-up my new favorite “literary versus genre” argument.
[Publishing] is a ‘transactional’ environment – sometimes it feels like other writers only want to know what you can do for them. In that sense it reminds me of my days in Foreign Affairs, where I was surrounded by diplomats who wanted to know what aristocratic school you went to, who you knew in the diplomatic or political elite, and whether you could help them get posted to New York.
In publishing, people want to know if you went to Clarion, if you know any famous authors who can give them a book blurb, and whether you can recommend them to a New York agent.
I’m 0/6, if you’re wondering.
Which is to say: when you find someone who gives a shit about your writing, no strings attached, treat them well. They are a rare beast indeed.
T. R. Napper gives advice.
I admit that the “hustle” is my least favorite part of publishing. Partly because I’m not good at it—being Australia, being a woman, being extremely shy—partly because I morally and economically object to it,1 but mostly because I really, really don’t like being on the receiving end of it, and like even less the idea that people might think I’m trying to do it to them. Which has the bummer side-effect of meaning I tend to avoid approaching writers whose work I do like, because of the fear of being seen as That Person.
Thing is, though? The Hustle works. That’s the depressing part. So it’d be nice to think there’s a happy medium between being That Person and being, er. Well. Me. Haven’t quite found it yet, though, so it’s a work in progress.
Which, y’know. Is maybe kinda the point…
- In the same way I object to all “gig economy” nonsense, although that’s a rant for another time. ^
I was asked a question on a panel once that was something along the lines of what advice I’d give to aspiring authors. My answer was that they should let go of the idea that everyone should “like” their writing.1 “Heaps of people hate Stephen King, whose stuff I love,” I said, “and love JK Rowling, whose stuff I can’t stand. And no-one at all defends Dan Brown, yet he still manages to be a bestseller!”
Having said that, a week or so later, I read this.
Incidentally, I think “not very clever media designed to make men feel they’re very clever” is probably a genre in-and-of-itself. And a lucrative one at that…
- I stand by this. It’s anecdotal, but still one of the biggest dividers I’ve found between novelists who’re successfully published and those who, uh, will probably never be. The former tend to understand things like audiences, markets, and YKINMKATOK. The latter, no so much… and often like to make sweeping generalizations about the “universality” of certain subjective plot lines, tropes, and authors while they’re at it. ^
In recent years in the US and UK, the people with most influence over a book jacket have been those who choose stock for supermarkets and chains such as Waterstones and WH Smith. A few years ago, a publisher at one of the “big three” houses (Penguin Random House, Hachette and HarperCollins) told me that they had presented a new book at a meeting with the buyer from a well-known retailer. An order from the chain could propel the book into the Top 10, but there was a problem: they hated the jacket. The publisher returned to her art department and commissioned a second design. Again, the buyer rejected it – the cover was still wrong. In all, the publisher had the jacket redesigned five times, until, as a joke, she took the original cover back to the buyer, who asked: “Why didn’t you bring me this first? I love it.”
Danuta Kean on book covers.
I admit I’m a book cover snob although, maybe ironically given the article, I really kinda freakin loathe the US cover for What Happened. Like, I don’t think the UK cover is great… but at least it’s not freakin’ ponderous like the US version. Also, at least it has a picture of Clinton on it (one can’t help but suspect her absence on the US version is related exactly to the problems of sexism against her in particular and women in politics in general that she talks about in the goddamn book…).
Closer to home, one of the reasons I’m a huge Angry Robot fangirl is I think they do some of the most baller covers: like hiring Julie Dillon to do the covers for Foz Meadows’s novels, or Richard Anderson for Kameron Hurley’s.1 I’m also all over the more recent trend of graphical/non-figurative covers: I admit when Leife showed me the cover art for The Beast’s Heart I kind of had to suppress a little shriek, it’s so beautiful. Also see: this version of the Southern Reach books.
Covers that don’t work for me? Most things with photo-collages, particularly when they include actual people.2 Actually, I honestly don’t know anyone who “likes” that kind of book cover, which I always find really weird given how ubiquitous (and not necessarily cheap!) they are. I’ve always been under the impression it was a big-box-bookstore-buyers-like-them-so-we-make-them thing, but… yeesh. I dunno.
Go figure, I guess.