Friday, December 02, 2011

Bookblogtopia

Urgh. Busy.

THANK YOU to everyone who's bought IN OBSCURA. I hope you liked/are liking it! I may put up something free in the next few weeks if I can get my freaking act together. I've also FINALLY finished my YA book. I'm doing the formatting now, but this is probably going to be the cover:


I just finished the NaNoWriMo thing and eventually, I'm sure that novel will go up on the Kindle. Although right now it's hilarious because I didn't plot it out exactly so there's a lot of "Hey, how's the case going?" without any specifics. WORK TO DO THERE. But I think it's a fun world.

Here's my "Congratulations! You vomited out 50,000 words of something!" badge:


I mentioned book blogging in a previous post, and what a clusterfuck it seems to be. I'd like to thank jenfullmoon for her comment from the viewpoint of a book blogger. She says, in part:
The social contract of taking book solicitations is not a comfy one, or at least wasn't for me. I'd rather just pick out my own books at the store, ones that I could flip through to see if I liked them (still can't do that as well as I'd like electronically, so self-published Kindle folks are way less likely to get my interest), and read it recreationally. I wasn't doing this to be professional or start a career in it (hah), and at this point, when some random author solicits me to go buy and read their book, I'm just ignoring it. It's not nice of me, but I just don't want to get involved with that any more.
It seems like it's become a cottage industry over the past few years. You know how it is. People start doing something because they like it, then corporations swoop in and ruin it for everybody.
Another issue is that to be interested in a Kindle-only book I can't flip through, I'd have to already have known/read the author enough to trust that even if they're self-publishing this one (say, an author I loved who had a publishing contract and then got dumped for low sales, or a author with a contract/series that I read who puts their own e-books on their website), I can be sure it's pretty good. A brand spanking new author I don't know/trust selling an e-book? Total crapshoot.
This is the perception I'd love to obliterate. First of all, it's even EASIER to check out a Kindle book than it is a published book. You can download 20% of Kindle books for preview. If all you're doing at a bookstore (whatever THAT is) is flipping through a book, being given 20% for free should make it even MORE obvious if you are going to like the book. But look, I understand your attitude because we all get used to how things are traditionally done. It's all about track record. Everything's about track record. It's comforting.

But we HAVE to get past the fallacy that traditionally-published books are automatically better than e-books. Because while this may have been a hard and fast fact several years ago, it simply isn't anymore.
So basically, if you came to me, I'd be all "I have no idea how you write fiction books, I'm going to have to pay for this Kindle book before I figure out if you're good or not, and then I'm going to have to deal with the personal aspect of rejecting you if you suck because you specifically asked for the review. Not worth it."
Which isn't really what I was complaining about, because you're not in that semi-pro book reviewer club. You know what's a little ironic about those folks? That I have actually made a living as a professional writer for fifteen years. And their credits are...? I guess that's what is so infuriating about it, and what is so infuriating about the whole publishing industry. Anything subjective like art, I suppose. Because there are people who put themselves up as gatekeepers, and they don't necessarily have any skill or experience with it. They just do it, and writers and artists fall into line. WHY DO WE DO THAT? Well, I suppose partly because we ARE artists and that's our weakness. And they know it, so they exploit it.

When you start out as a writer, regardless of format, you need to get feedback. You can't grow into a better writer until you can not only take notes, but reject them as well. That's one of the hardest and most important lessons to learn -- when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em. A lot of writers decide to take all the notes without knowing which notes are valuable and which aren't. Some writers decide not to take any, because their work is perfect. So they think. But that's a crucial aspect when an artist decides it's time to put their work out there. It's always tricky and you make a lot of mistakes. It's SO important to get to the intent of a note because what the note-giver is telling you doesn't always explain their issue. This is something I think I've managed to handle fairly well. Not perfectly, mind you, but I'm not bad at it. And I also think I give pretty good notes, too. Because unlike a critic, I've been there. I know what it takes to create a story and characters. Critics know what they don't like. And good critics, good note-givers, are a lot more rare than you would think. When you find one, you want to work with them forever.

Just because somebody is a gatekeeper, of whatever stripe, doesn't make them good at any of this. So here's my new thing on book bloggers -- I don't want you to read my book, because I don't know who YOU are. Why the fuck would I BEG someone I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT to read my book and then air their review publicly? This is my epiphany -- THIS SHIT IS INSANE. "Professional" book bloggers have cleverly created a space where they are given weight. I have to hand it to them. But no thanks. I'm already a professional. No begging will occur here.

Some people do the book blogging thing for reputation, or a career, or for ad hits or whatever. I just wanted to do it for fun, for fuck's sake. That could be what you are running into when you are soliciting for reviews. It's not quite as easy at it seems when even an unpopular blog like mine can get crap because everyone has Google Alerts on their name. Ugh.
Well, it's unfortunate that you're getting caught up in that. Just ignore it and read what you want to. Luckily, I didn't actually try to solicit any reviews. Because it just seemed all too weird. And, as it turns out, that's exactly how weird it is. Frankly, I care more about the quality of a thing than its popularity. The "professional" book bloggers are trafficking in the same shit many of the publishers are. What happens when a business struggles is they try to exercise more control. This happens in the entertainment business as well, and it's definitely happening in publishing. Because it's all corporate, the way they exercise that control is by trying to quantify something that isn't quantifiable -- creativity. And that's when it gets difficult to rely on your skill to just write well.

But look, I put my book out there. It was totally free to do, and the fact that people seem to enjoy it is really all I was after. Also, I really like making book covers.

Stephen Blackmoore says:
I think the self-publishing discussion took over what Chuck was really trying to get at, which was maybe, as writers, we should try looking at the quality of our work before looking at how we should publish it.

The conversation gets mired in how to sell over how to write sometimes.
The same thing happens in TeeVee and especially in features. People are so all-consumed with how to get their script to an agent or JJ Abrams that they don't focus on writing. And also, they think they're going to sell a script for a million dollars, or sell a show that will run forever. Because when you see success stories, as an American especially, you think that you could do that, too. You could be that successful, etc.

The only way ebooks will be taken seriously is if more traditionally published writers give up those contracts and start publishing on their own. Which Lee Goldberg did to a certain degree when he decided not to write more Monk books. He's a fantastic writer and I can't wait to see him succeed just doing his own stuff. I care about good writing and not shitty writing that got successful. So I am at cross purposes with some people in that regard. I don't think success stories where the writing is crap helps.

I just read a dystopian YA book called Divergent, by a writer fresh out of college. Veronica Roth. I would be super irritated, in a good way, if she'd managed to echo and not ape The Hunger Games. But ape she did, and her lack of life experience and especially writing experience shows with this book. It's not that she's a bad writer. She isn't. But you can tell that she's really new to it. The worst thing to happen to YA fiction is the explosion of dystopian futures. I think YA consistently has the best writing of all the genres. Or had, until the explosion happened and every pink-cheeked college grad decided to pop off a dystopian YA romance and get published. And the problem is, they ARE getting published. And then Hollywood, which doesn't know any better, options the things.

Nobody is going to create a more vivid, impactful dystopia than Suzanne Collins did. But you can create a DIFFERENT one, which is not where Veronica Roth went. Her dystopia is not at all believable. Seriously, throughout the entire book all you're thinking about is how the future doesn't make any Goddam sense. This is the latest wave and I'm afraid that it's going to go downhill from here. Luckily, Ally Condie wrote Matched, which is wonderful, and I did enjoy Ann Aguirre's Enclave, even if it's a little slight. Suzanne Collins, Ally Condie and Ann Aguirre were not new to writing when they wrote their dystopian books, however.

World-building is HARD, and imagining a future America after some kind of violent unknown event isn't for the novices. If you haven't read a lot of science fiction dystopian books (just seeing Mad Max doesn't count) then you have no business diving into this world just because a publisher wants a dystopia. It's infuriating.

I think we're moving towards actual science fiction YA and I've heard time travel, and that is just going to KILL these writers. Urban fantasy isn't a piece of cake either, but it's much more of a gateway genre for writers who are just trying to cash in on a crazy. But doing actual science fiction and time travel is going to be a tough road for newbies.

Read some Heinlein, for fuck's sake. At least skim a few of the juveniles and Farnham's Freehold. Work up to JG Ballard and Harlan Ellison if you want to do dystopia. If you want to cash in on the burgeoning time travel thing, see if you can grok David Gerrold's THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF before banging out a treatment.

Next, and hopefully very soon, I am going to write a post about vampires. No, I am not kidding.