Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Adventures of an e-Book Bookie, 2

We Are Always In the Same Leaky Rowboat

I love listening to books and lectures on tape while I drive. Listening, while driving and dialing my cellphone trying not to spill my beer as I negotiate one-lane construction traffic behind a schoolbus is one of the joys and challenges of suburban living.
Just kidding about the beer and cellphone and schoolbus.
But right now my commute lecture is Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal and it tells the story of how the seeds of the modern world sprouted only after the hierarchy of the Middle Ages had crumbled. The concept of nation states, a middle class, and personal freedom could thrive only after the feudal world had died.
This is analogous to today's publishing world.
The hierarchy of New York publishing houses and agents being the only game in town is over. The brick-and-mortar stores are flailing and failing. And writers like us have a bright and hopeful new future with e-Books and blogs and e-zines. The writing has always been our purview and responsibility but now, with social media (God I hate that sententious phrase: 97% of it is electronically-transmitted-junior-high-school-bullshit gossip) the marketing and PR is also our responsibility.
But a word of caution: the most important word in "e-Book" is "Book". And as writers we have first and always the duty to write the best books we can. Do not give in to the temptation to upload and offer for sale a book that isn't as perfect as you can make it. Just because it is now easy to publish don't be fooled into thinking that it will ever be easy to write. It will always take ten times as long as you thought it would and as Lillian Hellman said, "Nothing you ever write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
So don't get swept up with e-publishing fever. Don't finish your novel and immediately upload it for sale (and public scrutiny). Print out your manuscript and proof it as a hardcopy and you'll be amazed at the spelling errors you missed if you'd only read it on the computer. Data enter the corrections and don't look at the manuscript for a week and print it out again and you'll find things you've overlooked. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to read it critically and honestly. And listen to their comments. Weigh them before you utilize or discard them. Take advantage of local writers' critique groups or find one online.
When I taught my seminar, Things I Wish I did Not Know About Writing I always felt I cheated the students because I'd leave the class pumped up and ready as hell to write because I always talked about what I needed to remind myself.
I wrote this blog today because I needed to hear it.
I'm finishing up another mystery novel and I'm thinking in terms of formatting and uploading and marketing rather than rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. And that is a fundamental mistake that I don't want to make.
Despite all the crap writing that gets published and climbs the best sellers list it is a fact that for a writer it is always about writing the best book you can while you juggle job and family.
However we are published, book or e-book, we will always be in the same leaky rowboat: bailing with one hand and rowing with the other.

A freelance writer returned home to see his house wrapped in police tape. “I live here,” he told a cop, “what happened?”
“Your agent came over this afternoon murdered your wife and kidnapped your daughter.”
“Holy shit,” he said. “My agent came to my house?”

Rob's agent has never visited his house, with murderous intent, or otherwise. For an e-copy ($1.38) of his book: Things I Wish I Did Not Know About Writing: 15 Essays on Dreams, Sorrows, and Proofreading

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