Sunday, November 26, 2017

More Rejections? Thoughts on why?

I have really been thinking about this a lot lately. I find that I am rejecting so many authors lately, it seems ridiculous. Now, I know what some people might say. Agents like myself are only looking for the book that will immediately land the author and the agency on the NY Times Best Seller List in the first week. While this might sound like a great reason, this is far from the truth. Although we would love to have a book do this, for most of us, we are looking for authors to be around for the long haul. So, with that said, why am I rejecting so many people?

I honestly have to say, it is coming down to the quality of the writing that I see being submitted. The writing is just not good. Sure, there might be moments of brilliance, but for the most part, I am finding stories that feel hastily rushed, full of cliché, and reads very elementary. Sure, these authors have been fully committed to their stories and their writing, but it is not there yet.

So why is this happening?

I have my theories about this one. I am not sure I can prove these ideas, but I do believe the hypothesis for each is pretty accurate.

THE SELF-PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS NOT PROMOTING QUALITY OK, before I go any further, this is not me just throwing the self-publishing industry under the bus. What I am saying is that the self-publishing companies out there promote that EVERYONE can write and EVERYONE can be published. All you have to do is write that story, send it in and "bada-bing, bada-boom" you are published. Any quality control is completely based on what the author did before submitting the book. What I hear, over and over again is, "my beta-readers loved it." Well isn't that great! But has there been any real thought about insuring the quality of the product is worthy of being published? Probably not.

Writing takes time to learn and people are just not doing that. The goal is about getting that product finished and off to the market as fast as possible.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ARE NOT THERE I do believe writers want to learn, but when we attend conferences, the focus is entirely on marketing and self-publishing. We are again, not focusing on teaching the work of writing BEFORE the book goes to market.

I would also add that many of the workshops we see are not being taught by people who have figured it out for themselves. These are those people who have self-published and are now proclaiming their ideas are the end-all, be-all of solutions. I remember seeing one author promoting a series of plotting books, and yet this person has not done anything for 10 years. Probably not the professional who should be teaching this.

So, what are authors stuck with? Blog posts like this one that might give an author a nugget of information, or reading books that have been around for 10+ years even though the market has moved on.

An extension of this is also the writing chapters and organizations out there who bring in guest speakers for the weekend who again, might not be the strongest person to teach the lesson, or someone who is presenting a workshop that has been recycled for the last 10 years.

We are also stuck with writing groups who are simply finding the cheap way (although I should say inexpensive way) of bringing in speakers. Look, bringing someone in does cost money. You have to fly them out and put them up in a hotel. But think of what you get??

Think of it this way... you get what you pay for.

These are just two ideas, but it should get you thinking. Until this industry decides to start teaching writing, the rejections will continue to keep flying out over the Internet.

Let me just also add one more element. K-12 education is not teaching writing anymore. Even many of the English 101 classes are just promoting the 5 paragraph essay and opinion writing. If people are not learning the basics here, how can we expect to see a quality novel??

Friday, November 17, 2017

Why Changing Genres Is Tough

A lot of authors try it. Far too many fail at the attempt.

What I am talking about here are authors who have been writing in one genre, or have a talent for one genre, and then, for some reason, they feel it is time to "make a shift" and try something new. For some authors, they make the shift at the suggestion of a critique partner. For others, they simply see a new line and think it would be a great career move. Unfortunately, talking about the move is one thing. Executing the move is something else.

So, why is it so difficult.

This is something I have written about here on the blog in the past, and it all stems from the concept of "write what you know." Each of us has one genre we can connect with better than others. It might be because this is what we read. It might simply be the style of the structure connects with certain neurons in the brain. Regardless of the reason, that connection gives you an inherent insight to that style of writing that just flows naturally.

I often talk about these connection when I talk about the specific nuances of a writing style. For example, writing historical novels set in Regency England is more than simply a lot of dancing, house parties and characters saying "La." The same for Scottish Historicals. These are not about a bunch of hunky guys in kilts saying "Doona." If you read a story from someone new to this genre, you will fully understand what I am talking about. The language is stilted and forced. Things don't flow. Sure, the components are there, but the execution is not.

This also goes to another level, especially for those of you who are published. While you might be able to "write on proposal" with your current editor of your current genre, that shift to a new line will require you to write a full manuscript. You might have the sales numbers in your current genre, and that proposal might sound great, but again, it comes down to a full execution of the story.

I do recommend for any author, before you make that shift, THINK!!!! Consider what you know, what you will need to know, and if that execution is really going to be there. It might not be worth the effort, unless you have the time and the patience. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why 100% Digital Does Not Work

I started thinking about this yesterday after my wife came home from work. Let me give you the background here.

She is a department chair for her college and she was in doing an observation for one of her instructors. This guy was using a gaming app called Kahoot for a review activity. This is a great app but here is where the problem lies. If people don't have the technology, they are now locked out of the activity.

Here is another example. I fully understand the music industry is advancing quickly in terms of their technology. We have really come a long way from those 8-Track tapes! But when we have gone 100% digital, if people do not have the technology to listen to the music, (or to watch the shows such as Hulu, Netflix and the like), you have cut off part of the population that may have contributed to your income.

But how does this relate to publishing? The answer is simple. When you limit your readership to only those with the digital capabilities, you have lost a huge section of your population. Not everyone has the technology to read your books digitally. Not everyone has a large tablet, Kindle or something to read your books. Not everyone enjoys reading books on technology. There are still a lot of people out there who love the smell and feel of a book.

The large publishers did figure this out quickly when the digital book movement began. When they released books, they did so both in print and in e-book format. This is actually one of the big reasons why we saw such a spike in e-books at the beginning. It was not that authors who were going 100% digital were out-pacing the print sales. It was that the print people were doing BOTH and that contributed to the sales.

For you new authors out there, I fully understand the allure of grabbing those self-publishing opportunities that are primarily digital. You are now published! But remember there are a lot of people out there who might really enjoy your writing but will never see it if they are not using the digital outlets.

I am not someone who is going to say digital is bad, but I have to remind a lot of people, that, although the technology may be out there, not everyone has access to it, or enjoys using it. If you want to increase your sales, you have to create those multiple platforms for your readers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Pantster's Struggle

Yes, this is an ongoing debate in the writing community. This is that universal argument about whether or not it is good to be a plotter or a pantster. Again, I am going to be the advocate for the best method, and that would be plotting.

Before I go any further,  want to return all of you back to your junior high and high school days. Remember in writing classes your teachers talked about a concept known as the writing process? Let me give you that quick review.

Essentially, there are three areas: PRE-WRITING, DRAFTING and PUBLISHING. You may have seen these with different terms, but these are the main areas.

In the first phase, the pre-writing, this is where you do most of your planning. As the prefix PRE means, it is BEFORE you start writing. During this phase, you brainstorm, you free write, you outline, you research. Essentially, you get all of your thoughts figured out first before you even waste your time doing any writing. If you spend the time here, you won't end up writing a story that is pointless or goes no where. You figure out the mistakes BEFORE you get started.

In the second phase, this where you draft and get feedback. During this phase you are constantly getting feedback and revisions as you go. This phase is not about writing the entire story AND THEN getting feedback. Get those comments as you go so your revisions are not painful.

In the publishing phase, this is where you do your picky editing. This is where you wordsmith and get it ready BEFORE sending it out to publishers and agents.

Now, where the pantsters of the world screw up is that they take the FREEWRITING step in the Pre-Writing phase and count that as real writing. They assume that the work they do there is going to be the story. While you might find some nuggets of content here, this is not going to be your best work. The reason is simple. You have no idea where your work is going to.

As a quick side note, this is also the reason why so many people who are now in the middle of the NANOWRIMO are going to struggle. This month is going to be a lot of brainstorming and free-writing which means the editing is going to be a nightmare.

Now, let me get back to the other issue of why it is crucial you plot those stories out.

If you are like pretty much everyone else out there, you do not have unlimited time. If you have two hours of writing, you have to make sure that time is used wisely. You cannot lose that time just trying to figure things out. But there is a bigger issue. For so many of you pantsters, you just start writing and then end up ramming into a brick wall as your characters of the plot went one way, and you needed to go somewhere else. Not fun.

I know that many of you believe "plotting hampers your creativity." Bull! Plotting is just deciding where you want to head in each chapter or section of your book. You don't need to plot every element of dialogue or storyboard the entire book. But you do need to have a vision of where you need to be at the end of each chapter or section.

Just something to think about on a Tuesday!