Monthly Archives: May 2012
J.F. Jenkins: Self-Publishing
Welcome YA author J.F. Jenkins to the blog! She has a different view but one that needs to be heard. Take it away, J.F.:
Confession time: when I receive a book that is self published, I automatically don’t particularly want to read it. I also probably won’t spend my money on a self published work either. Maybe this makes me a book snob, but I’ve been burned too many times in the past by bad apples. I thought they’d be a good fun, cheap, date for the night, and they turned out to be slimey and sleazy. They made me cringe.
Don’t get me wrong, not all self published books are bad. For example, I adored Heather Hildenbrand’s “Across the Galaxy”. Here’s the thing that made it so good. Editing. And I can tell it had been through several rounds of it, and that she did not rush to get her work out. Most of the self published books I read lack this one important quality. The desire to rush a book out for publishing makes for a bad read. Plus, editing is expensive to pay for. If you’re getting it for free, it’s hard to find someone reliable who knows what they’re doing. Heck, even paying for it, you don’t know if you’re getting a good opinion.
I was asked to write about the importance of the publishing press, and so that’s where I’m going to start: editing. The publishing press will pay for and back up the editing for your novel. Pretty cool huh? In fact, they’ll back up what you do because they believe in you. That gives you a lot more credibility than doing it yourself and telling people you’re a good writer just because you say so.
No, I’m not trying to harp on self publishing. I think it’s interesting and cool. In fact, I may even give it a try some day with a project or two. At the same time, I’m nervous about it because of the bad apples. No one wants to be a bad apple, you know? But it’s also sad to see an industry start to struggle because of the lack of gatekeepers and the people who want to abuse the system for a quick buck. It’s creating a ripple effect in the traditional world of publishing as well. The industry has become a lot about how well you can sell yourself instead of how well you create. Truth is, it’s been going down this angle for a while before the creation of self publishing. But the world of digital publishing is making these ripples greater.
Which is part of why I urge writers to keep trying to find a publishing house. Do the rejection letters stink? Yeah, but each one will teach you something new about the industry as well as your work. Without the rejection, there’s no gatekeeper, and there’s no telling what could happen if we got rid of the gatekeepers entirely.
There’s no way to really stop the changes that are happening in the industry, nor am I sure if we want to. Eventually, something is going to give much like it did in the music world as well as television. All I can say is that if you’re going to take a dip into this pond, make sure you know how to swim. If you’re going to self publish, don’t rush your book just because you’re excited to get it out. This never ends well. Invest in a lot of editing. Read your book until you’re sick of it.
And I do strongly urge you to find someone to back up what you’re doing, someone who believes in you.
Find J.F. Jenkins at her website:
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/jfjenkinstweets
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jfjenkinsauthor
Something New in the Pipeline…
This month marks the start of something new for me in terms of gothic romance. I’ve written a lot of contemporary works in this genre. My novels and stories often have historical threads in them or “double stories” going on.
But the books I’m working on these days are my first real foray into historical gothic romance. The serial set I have rolling out with Musa Publishing takes place in 1830 and beyond and follows the Montmoor family. A spooky estate nestled against the cliffs of Cornwall, a madman, a curse, a nasty ghost, a frightened governess, and dark secrets made this first book fun to write. As the serials progress through edits and first drafts, I keep coming back to one question: how can I include tons of gothic elements and tropes that fans of the genre will love?
The series feels a bit Victoria Holtish but with atmosphere–I hope. That’s always been my pet peeve with Holt’s work. The elements of gothic romance were there in terms of plot setup and characters, but I never felt even a frisson of the spookiness I wanted to experience… in most of her books, anyway. Where were the dimly lit hallways and the strange noises or the threatening Byronic heroes? They make their appearances in some of her works, but many are devoid of such trappings.
My aim is that this serial set will be fun for lovers of the historical gothic romance. The first serial, “The Governess and the Master,” is up for pre-order now in e-book format and will release May 25th. And here’s the gorgeous cover:
You can read an excerpt here. It’s exciting to do something new, and I’m thrilled with my great editors at Musa and that I’m getting the chance to push myself and write in a format I love–the serial. 🙂
Matthew Lee Adams: Write What You Can Imagine
I’m welcoming urban fantasy/paranormal author Matthew Lee Adams to the blog today. So, without further ado, here are Matthew’s thoughts:
“Write what you know” is an often repeated bit of advice for writers. It’s such a simple concept, and it should never be taken literally.
Rarely do authors write “what they know.”
What a writer does instead is take knowledge and observations and use these to bring an imagined story to life. The things we have seen and experienced bring authenticity to what we write about. And often, it’s only in nuances, little subtle brush-strokes. Or it may be hidden in themes or simply provide a setting.
Science fiction writers have for the most part (as far as I know) never been in space let alone explored the worlds they write about. Writers of historical fiction have never time-traveled (I can say this with more certainty). Many romance authors have admitted that they lead everyday lives that are no more exciting than any other person’s.
It’s true that some writers will use background or experiences to shape stories. But other than autobiographical accounts (and many of the more entertaining ones are, shall we say, “enhanced” to make them more appealing) we don’t really write about ourselves. Probably because most of us are really sort of boring when we take a good look at the realities of our lives. Or at least, we think we are. Or we think others might think so if they only knew.
A good writer is above all else also a good observer. Good observation is a painter’s palette. The writer knows how to mix and dab and touch – just enough to make the story we imagine become real to the readers who enjoy it. They’ll visualize it by identifying these small strokes of color and filling in the rest with their own imagination.
Writing “what you know” runs the risk of data-dump. Anything that ends in the word “dump” is not attractive.
There is nothing wrong with leveraging extensive knowledge or delving into considerable research to weave within a story and make it stronger. Michael Crichton famously did this by imbuing his works with enough science to lend credibility. But on the whole? They were thrillers, and tense rides through storylines that he imagined. I don’t think it was the science behind extracting DNA and growing dinosaurs that kept people reading “Jurassic Park.” The science was only a foundation for the stories themselves. With that analogy, would we rather live in a house, with our favorite rooms and décor and personal touches? Or sit on a bare slab?
What a writer wants to do is to connect with a reader through the familiar, and the familiar are things we observe and that we know our readers will recognize. Many sci-fi authors have always written what I consider “social science fiction.” They bring elements that are universally familiar to people into their stories. Science is still a part of the fabric, but the strength of the story lies within social themes readers can relate to – race, class and social status, us-and-them, even religion. The same is true for a lot of high fantasy.
Observation is also what allows us to make any character feel real. Neither gender really “knows” what it’s like to be the other. But authors of both genders have always written compelling male and female characters nevertheless. It comes down to observation and distilling what we see so that only a few brushstrokes are needed for a reader to recognize and feel they know a character. Heavy-handedness does no character a good service. We only need enough for the reader to fill in the rest.
I would tell any aspiring writer not to fret about what they do or don’t know. Instead, I’d advise to rely upon imagination and to be keen observers, learning how to bring elements of what they see into their stories. Authenticity is about knowing which details will cause a reader to nod with recognition of the familiar – not drowning them in details. When the touch is just right, it frees a reader to share the imagination of the writer. That’s the kind of connectedness that we seek.
Find out more about Matthew and his books: