Monday, November 06, 2006
blow by blow
How to become an instant hit: take a stave of solid pine, hand it to a friend and ask him to splinter it across your stomach. Or your arm, or even your head. It helps to know just how to brace yourself for the blow. It helps to know how to pack a punch as well as ride one.
Kung fu monks show off their technique
By Guardian Unlimited © Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006
I probably shouldn't post this.
I'll probably regret it.
I want to preface this post by saying it has absolutely nothing to do with my current situation. My publishing house did a fantastic job getting my latest book in stores, so this is not about them and it's not about me. Last week's big stink about a certain author got me stirred up. I'm not even going to link to it, but people were in an uproar because in a response to a point blank interview question this writer admitted she hasn't always gotten the publisher backing and support she would have liked to have had in her career. Gasp! How dare she?
Before this incident I've taken note of a lot of condemnation toward "outspoken" authors. Personally I experienced an attempted assault on my ass by someone who will remain unnamed because of things I said about the biz, and I've gotten into some arguments with people who say writers aren't supposed to talk about the unfortunate stuff that's happened to them in their careers. That it's equivalent to bad-mouthing your employer. I disagree. People are reducing publishing to a romanticized cozy office business rather than what it is -- a tightly structured corporation with the logical goal of staying in business and making a profit.
You create a product; they buy the product.
Now I'm not talking about someone personalizing a situation and taking out his or her frustration on a blog. Bad idea. Very bad idea. I'm in no way endorsing talking shit, so please don't think that's what this is about. But I do find it hard to understand why people are against writers commenting on stages of their careers and trying to let unpublished writers see that it's not all rosy in here and that different kinds of rejections can occur after a book has been purchased.
Here's how I see it:
1) Your publishing house is not your employer. Writers are self-employed.
2) Your publishing house is not your partner.
If you're lucky you'll have a good working relationship with your editor, but you aren't partners. You could idealistically say you are partners on a project, but there's a certain danger in that kind of thinking because you're creating a false footing. It's a little like saying you and your doctor are partners. It's warm and fuzzy ad-speak. You can like the person. You can enjoy that person's company, but you aren't partners. I've had the same agent for 15 years, but it would be presumptuous of me to say he and I are partners.
Here's something that's way oversimplified, but let's say you just spent three years inventing and created a cool gel pen. You sell the design to a pen factory. You have your money and they can do whatever they want with your pen. So maybe they only do one run and they put it in a few stores around the country, but nobody knows it exists and that's pretty much the end of your pen. You may have had a fantastic relationship with the person who bought your pen, and she will feel sick about what happened, but she was just the buyer in a long process of decisions. And now you're contracted to send this company your next gel pen. I think most people would feel compelled to gripe at least a little. Maybe not even gripe, but share important information. It's all about being prepared for the blow.