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  • Myths of Publishing, Part I

    2007 - 04.22

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Okay, in response to questions and comments from a variety of sources, it’s time I set some myths to rest about publishing and the life of an author. If other issues crop up enough, I’ll address them later.

    Myth 1.    Authors are rich. They are in the writing business to make a quick buck.

    Contrary to popular belief, the great majority of authors are not only not rich, they don’t even make their living at writing. Here’s the deal:

    A small percentage of the population attempt to write one or more books. Of those people, only small fraction complete even a single manuscript. Then, only a modest number of those folks manage to sell their books to professional publishers. From that limited group of authors, a small proportion actually eke out a living from writing. (Most of them are supported, at least in part, by the earnings and benefits of a spouse or significant other.) Out of this teensy minority of those who began the writing journey, a handful get truly rich.

    Kevin and I are very fortunate in that we get to make our income from doing very satisfying, enjoyable work that we chose. For this privilege, however, we work every day of the week and almost every day of the year. Our friends and families don’t get to see us nearly as much as they’d like to. We also have a mortgage, car payments, repair bills, and so on. We do our own grocery shopping, cook our own meals (well, Kevin does, mostly), do the dishes, take out the trash, and clean the cat box.

    Sorry to disappoint, but—in spite of what you see in movies—publishers don’t hold champagne book signings for us at which hundreds of lavishly dressed sophisticates show up and stand in long lines to get our autographs. Sigh. (If any of our editors or publishers are out there reading this, feel free to correct this situation. ;-) Our personal theory is that God gave us book signings to keep authors humble. Don’t ever be hesitant to come see us if we’re doing a signing in your area. You’ll make our day. (Are you listening, members of the 501st?)

    Myth 2.    A good book is free of discrepancies, contradictions, typos, and other flaws. Any errors that get through mean that the author and publisher are lazy or sloppy or just didn’t bother.

    My father (who holds two Masters degrees) taught English for more than a quarter century, and I grew up learning excellent grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Nothing irked me more than mistakes in my reading material. I frequently toyed with the idea of writing to the publishers and offering them my obviously much-needed services.

    Then I became a proofreader, next a copyeditor, then an editor, and (last) an author. Wow. What a bucket of cold, wet reality over the head! Believe it or not, there are so many levels of errors to watch for that no one person—or ten people, for that matter—can catch them all, whether the work in question is fiction or nonfiction (and blogs are another animal completely).

    Each person along the publishing line tends to look for different sorts of problems, and even these people can let things slip, because no human has 100% concentration. Kevin and I even add an extra level of readers on each manuscript to strain out some of the bigger problems before we even send a book on to the editor.

    I once had an editor tell me that a manuscript I had turned in was one of the cleanest she had ever seen in her years of publishing. After that, several levels of clean-up pros took over, after which I went through the typeset copy again. There were still a few typos in the published book—though precious few, I’m happy to say.

    I tried to explain all of this to my father the retired English teacher, and he (proud of his error-hunting prowess) did not believe me. He explained that someone who was truly knowledgeable in the English language, with its attendant rules of spelling, grammar, and the elements of style, could deliver a perfectly clean manuscript to anyone willing to pay for such expert services. Naturally, we hired him part-time to help us give our books the added polish that they need.

    After proofing our galleys for more than two years now, my dad has a new respect for the complexity of the publishing industry. As those of you who read our books know, errors still sneak through. Even if we took up every person who offered their additional services to spiff up our novels, perfection is not a viable option. But rest assured that we care about our readers and always work hard to give you books that are as fault-free as possible within the allotted time and budget as possible.

    For those of you whose hobby is catching mistakes, don’t let us stand in your way. But don’t bother protesting that you could do a far better job. You might correct a different set of booboos if you got a chance to replace one of the current professionals who works on our books, but you wouldn’t catch them all.

    Scoff, if you like, but I developed this opinion over the course of 20 years in publishing and having more than 30 books published by professional publishers. So, am I putting myself forward as an authority on this matter? Ja, you betcha. Nervy, huh?

    Yikes! I was going to add one more subject to this blog, but I’ve run way over the amount of time I gave myself to get this written. I’ve got to get back to editing book 3 in the CRYSTAL DOORS series, Sky Realm. I’ve got a looming deadline and a paycheck to earn. . . .

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Hay Fever and the Seven Dwarfs

    2007 - 02.28

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Since I’m sequestered in a hotel room right now, doing my final edit on Last Days of Krypton, I won’t be online much this week. Still, I thought I’d leave you with a little observation I made today:

    Hay Fever and the Seven Dwarfs

    I’m a bit Bashful about sharing this, but recently I’ve been kind of Sneezy, so my nights are restless, which leaves me Sleepy the next day, not to mention really Grumpy. Fortunately, even though my prescription from the Doc makes me a little Dopey, I’m pretty Happy with the results.

    Huh. Sorta makes you wonder if the person who named Disney’s seven stature-challenged mineral-extraction specialists wasn’t just a bit under the weather. . . .

    Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, to editing I go.

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Q&A 1 for New or Aspiring Writers

    2007 - 02.22

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Do you have to get a copyright on your stories before you send the manuscripts to publishing companies to review?

    A writer’s work is considered copyrighted as soon as it is written. You don’t have to file for added protection before sending a story or novel out into the world to be sold (and putting a copyright statement on your manuscript brands you as a NON-professional, so beware).

    How did you got started on your writing career?

    Since I was a teenager, I dabbled in fiction, but never finished anything unless it was for a school assignment. My first published writing was nonfiction. I wrote math and management workbooks for the army while working for Big Bend Community College. After that, I became a technical writer for a national lab. It wasn’t until after I met author Kevin J Anderson — five years my junior — that I finally realized that no one just “gives” you the time to write. I had to “take” the time. Both Kevin and author Janet Kagan pointed out a key to writing success that had not occurred to me: unfinished stories don’t get published. I went home and finished a story, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve written or co-written more than 30 books and a handful of short stories.

    What college courses would you suggest for someone who wants to write for a living?

    First, let me give you a warning, for what it’s worth. Just taking college English/Writing courses will not make you a writer.

    Personal Anecdote: I took creative writing in college from a professor who savaged everything I wrote. I had wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager, and I thought, “I’m a pretty decent writer. My father’s an English teacher, so I’ve always known how to string together coherent sentences, and isn’t that what writing’s all about?” (FYI there’s a lot more to writing than that, but it’s the subject of another blog.) Unfortunately, everything I did was wrong from this writing prof’s point of view. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was crushed. Every time a student in the class wrote something that I thought just kicked butt — so good everybody in the class was saying “Wow!” — the teacher ripped it to shreds.

    After about ten years of no writing whatsoever, I realized something about the professor: his publishing experience consisted of a single chapbook of poetry — a couple hundred copies. Other than taking writing classes in college (which I also did), that was the sum total of his literary “authority.” Yet he had essentially mired me in doubt by convincing me that I was a terrible writer. Kevin has a completely different caveat about college writing professors. Ask him about it. Some profs are wonderful, while others can actually be stumbling blocks to you in your pursuit of a writing career. (Note: If you are a professor and are reading this, you’re probably not the latter type.)

    So what should you take? Since writers are frequently advised, “Write what you know,” I suggest taking a wide variety of subjects that you can use as fodder for stories. History can be particularly helpful, since it is full of potential story plots. Kevin took Astronomy and Russian History. I took lots of literature, languages, and music. I also have an M.S. in Business Administration, which I’ve always found useful in running our writing business.

    Until next time.

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Putting Your Creativity to Use

    2007 - 02.16

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    So what does your favorite New York Times bestselling author do for Valentines Day? Kevin was planning to take me to Glenwood Hotsprings for a romantic day of soaking and talking.

    Unfortunately, the day turned out snowy and only 20° F, and we decided that a 3-hour drive followed by a run through below-freezing temperatures to get soggy was, perhaps, not the most conducive to romance. So the ever-creative KevMeister improvised.

    Kevin made me heart-shaped fresh-blueberry scones with clotted cream for breakfast. After giving me a ginormous mushy card, he lit a fire and we watched movies and shows together that he let me pick out. For supper, he fixed me what we call a Love Feast: a variety of cheeses and fruits, crudites, caviar on crackers (garnished with hardboiled eggs, onions, sour cream, and capers), and bread dipped in olive oil, with grapes, stilton cheese, and chocolate for dessert. Not too filling, and very romantic. It was a lovely evening.

    Although this isn’t exactly a blog on writing, it illustrates that creative gifts need not be reserved purely for work — whether your gift is art, writing, cooking, acting, entrepreneurship, dancing, etc. Your creativity should also be used in generous portions to remind those you love of how important they are to you.

    To all of you who are our friends, readers, family, students, fans, or new acquaintances, thank you. May you be surrounded by your loved ones and wonderful books.

    ciao* & hugs,

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Genre Chick Interview

    2007 - 01.24

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Just found out that an interview that I did with my friend Janet Young from Ingram is up now on the Ingram’s site. To read it, follow this link to Reader’s Advisor.

    It answers a lot of questions that I get asked, and then some. Hope you enjoy it.

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Dimensionality

    2007 - 01.12

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    My MySpace friend Tyler recently asked me:

    Do you think there are different worlds around
    us that we just don’t have access to–
    like a fourth demension or something?
    What about the Bermuta-Triangle?
    What do you think that is?

    I decided to post my answer here.

    I *want* there to be another dimension around us. (Like Mulder, I want to believe.) I’m not convinced yet, but I like to think it’s true. As to the Bermuda Triangle, I always figured that anomalous magnetic fields and strange weather caused lots of accidents and odd instrument readings. What do the rest of you think?

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    PS Kevin’s blog on increasing your writing productivity starts Tuesday.

    Piled Higher and Deeper

    2007 - 01.08

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Have you been watching the most recent installments of Colorado Hogs the Headlines? Three blizzards in three weeks. In our area, the annual average snowfall is roughly 37″. In the past *3 weeks* we’ve had 48″ or so. As if that’s not enough, Denver got a football player killed, and the road to Winter Park had a rip-roaring avalanche. (This isn’t actually our snowy season, BTW. That comes in March and April.) And guess what’s headed our way in a few days?

    Right. More snow.

    Keep an eye on Kevin’s blog for the next week and a half. He’ll be posting his world-famous advice on increasing your writing productivity. Hmm. I doubt that’s enough to get us into the news. What *will* we do next to grab the headlines?

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Blizzard Redux and Belated News

    2006 - 12.27

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    The blizzard just before Christmas meant that the flights of my sister in Maryland, nephew-in-law in Atlanta, sister-in-law in L.A., and brother and family in Seattle all got cancelled. We got whomped by about two feet of snow, so no flights were going in or out. Our cars could’t even make it to the street, much less to pick up family. My niece Sarah and goddaughter Maren were already here and staying with my parents, so Kevin and I snow-shoed two miles to spend time with them (and my parents, sister Diane, brother-in-law Tim, and nephew Spencer) in spite of the weather.

    In what was virtually a Christmas miracle, all but my nephew-in-law managed either to drive here or get one of the rare seats on a rebooked flight and arrive by the 23rd. We had two of the out of town families stay with us, and two extra families and lots of kids stayed at my Mom & Dad’s. As usual, our street was the very last to be plowed, so for days, we had to hike back and forth through knee-deep snow to one of the plowed roads, and have Tim ferry us to and from my parents’ house for family events. Even so, we had a wonderful time, and thank you to so many of you for your kind wishes.

    In addition, just before Christmas I was asked to be a judge for the Writers of the Future Contest. (The KevMeister and I have been giving talks at the annual WotF workshops for about a decade now, but only KJ was an official judge.) Yay!

    I wish you all safety and happiness as a new winter storm approaches Colorado. Proof once more that we’ll do *anything* to get into the news. . . .

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    The Colorado Theory

    2006 - 11.05

    Cross-posted from MySpace:


    Current mood:  exhausted
    Category: Life

    My apologies to those of you waiting for another writing blog. I’m still up to my eyeballs on the Sandworms edit. Just a few more days. Honest.

    Meanwhile, I thought I’d share with you a theory Kevin and I came up with years ago after moving to our castle in Colorado. The theory is this:

    Colorado will do anything — absolutely anything — to get into the news.

    That’s right, whatever it takes: High school shootings, child beauty queen murders, the latest bon mot from Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, forest fires, blizzards . . . The list goes on and on. Really. For a modestly sized state, we get waaaay more than our share of press. Religious scandal, anyone? Yup Ted Haggard’s local to Colorado Springs. Makes a lowly writer proud.

    Hey, it’s home.

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

    Podcast Interviews!

    2006 - 10.28

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    I recorded an interview with Sheila and Lorrie of DragonPage with Class when I was at Dragon*Con this year. To hear it, follow this link to DragonPage.

    For you writers or would-be writers out there, DragonPage also has a podcast of Kevin’s and my WorldCon panel on the Business of Writing. If you have ever had the urge to ask us for advice, this is a great place to start. Let me know what you think!

    ciao,*

    Rebecca

    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)