Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Handsome hubby putting up the new number plaque.

We're slowly settling into our new home, and we have tons of home improvement projects to do. Of course life goes on in the publishing world as well, and things aren't getting any prettier there, either.

As a freelance editor  (click here for my editorial services), I come across a lot of  manuscripts which remind me of pesky home improvement projects. It's possible that a "house" might be able to come about utilizing the material involved, but it's going to take a lot of  "sweat equity" as they say on PBS TV's This Old House. The "home" isn't going to be complete and livable (readable) without some blood, sweat and tears. You might even have to listen very closely to your "architect" (editor), who is trying hard to help you build a sturdy "home" and not a ramshackle shed that blows apart in a strong wind (or critic's harsh review), or else all your hard work might be for naught.

Dropping the extended home improvement analogy, what I'm trying to say is this: The truth of why your manuscript isn't working may hurt. It can hurt a lot. In my opinion,  it's far better for an author to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth upfront. How else can an author make intelligent decisions and receive the guidance he/she needs to craft a strong story without knowing the truth?

This doesn't seem to be the going thing in the electronically published world right now. You can't get an agent or editor to take on your book--it's not your book's problem! You just need to pay Amazon or whoever to self-publish your work and ta da! Instant millionaire! The tragic thing is that many of these self-published works aren't quite ready for prime time, even if the self-published author paid someone (or didn't) to proofread for typos, misspellings, and other grammatical gaffes. The ideas behind these works aren't ready, or they've been done before a billion times. Yes, the truth hurts. Your idea might just suck.

Worse yet, your idea might be highly offensive--or libelous. What good is it if you ignore an editor's advice when he/she warns you of possible litigation if you don't back off grinding your ax into your ex-girlfriend, employer, brother-in-law? You publish a book that offends people and makes you look like a grudge-carrying, mean-spirited bully. What is the purpose in doing something so childish and cruel?

Writing is a private act, but publishing is a public act. Never forget that once your words are in print (electronic or on paper) you can't take them back. Always keep your target audience in mind. Who are your readers? What are their expectations? And, more importantly, do you have more readers in mind that just you and your mom?

In all your writings practice objectivity and balance--and listen to your freelance editor when he/she tells you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You pay a professional to give you professional advice. Listen to it. Learn from it. Live with it. Grow.

For more information on how to become successfully published, check out my funny how-NOT-to writer's guide (written under my "real" name), available in print from Smiling Assassin Productions. Or drop me an email. I don't bite. Really, I don't. Promise. But I warn you, I'll tell you the truth. Unvarnished. It's how I roll.


Sabrina Devonshire said...

Great post. The sad truth is many manuscripts not ready for publication become ebooks and best-sellers. That's one I really don't get...

P. J. DEAN said...

I believe the advent of self-publishing has done real writers a disservice. Anyone and everyone who can cobble together a sentence has written a book nowadays. Sad, because a lot of it is trash. Trash in the sense that the stories have no rhyme or reason and are offered for free or for .99 cents because thhe author has visions of hundreds of thousands of people are just waiting for their masterpiece. So it has to be priced just right or there will be no audience. Sometimes I really think the reader who constantly looks for free or low cost reads gets what it looks for--free or low priced incoherence.
It's tough out there for a writer!

Celine said...

Thanks for your comments, Sabrina and PJ. I really don't get it, either--the incoherent "best-sellers" in the ebook world. Sometimes it makes you wonder if they're actually teaching READING in schools anymore.

And, definitely, you get what you pay for when you do nothing but download "free reads" all the time. If it's not worth it to a publisher to edit your book, design cover art for it, and help promote it with the publisher's good name on the title page, then it's probably not worth forking over 99 cents, IMO. Amazon has a lot to answer for these days in allowing so much trash to flood the 'net.