Monday, February 28, 2011
Am I the Man?
I spoke too soon when I said everyone was a good sport... People (apparently every year) pout and say things that offend OTHER people who are defensive for understandable reasons... the arguments of people who are SAD that it is all basically a lottery... make it look like the people who MADE it didn't deserve to...
Now there are a ton of voices of reason there, both among those who made it and among those who didn't, so I don't want to sound like it's all bad, but the discussion I am referring to here was about the ABNA system being innately flawed. The argument was that we were being judged on our PITCH rather than our writing. (erm... did we not write our pitches?)
But think about it this way... a pitch gives the reader a broad feel for what the story is about. And an AGENT wants to know if it's an appealing story before deciding whether she wants to read more. And this makes TOTAL sense.
For ABNA, the trouble is it is a crapshoot for which 'agent' screens. As writers we can target agents who we know represent the genre of our book. THIS is the luck part for ABNA. Now I suspect screeners KNOW if it sounds like a 'pretty good story', then even if it isn't their genre, they should pass it through (in fact I think they assign number ratings on several parameters, so it becomes (sort of) an objective comparison, but the appeal of the story will definitely be colored by the reader's preferences.
That said, though, a bad pitch will not make it through. Some portion of these are inadequate pitches for good stories, but some are also inadequate pitches for inadequate stories. (I happen to believe this is where I was last year. The story hadn't been adequately edited and so I was accurately screened OUT. This year my story is tighter, but in reality, I will eventually be screened out, also... I just learned (and got help) and my pitch was good. (so that gives the portion of screened IN that maybe should not have been--good pitches for not good (yet) books)
The NEXT step is the first 3000-5000 words... just like an agent... and they can see how the writing is... so they judge based BOTH on the story, and on the writing of the story... Now a fair few get passed on here... 250 in each group... Yes, that is only a 5% chance from initial entry... and in both cases people will have their stories weeded when they are GREAT books. But here, while not everyone passed on will have a great book, the query proves a good story and the excerpt proves they can write... everyone to pass on is capable, in my opinion. They (like me) may not be quite done, but I think stories going on at this point are mostly stories that are eventually viable.
Now at this point, the books are read (and rated...) and again, there might be a mismatch... GREAT books may not get through. But my POINT is, the books that DO get through at this point either ARE great, or have enough proof of potential for greatness.
And isn't that the point? Amazon wants to find a book that will be successful. This is a commercial venture at no cost to the entrants. So can we really cry foul? I don't think we can...
I happen to think self publishing is getting more and more viable, and think there are a lot of authors for whom this is a GREAT option. But I ALSO think it is a vast, tempting quagmire for new authors... think about the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings... the lights tempting people into the wrong place. It is FAR too easy to press submit LONG before a book is ready.
I don't think this HAS to be the case, but...
Okay, so a writer friend of mine who I hadn't even realized was done with a book posted something about self publishing her book... She wants feedback to see if it is viable for traditional publishing. Are you spotting here all the pits she could fall into. I think the growth of self-publishing makes it way too easy for someone to just think 'I'll see' and think they really WILL see. The reality is, it will be a friends and family venture anyway, unless they do all the networking groundwork... but even WITH the networking groundwork, if the book isn't properly polished, it won't be ready, and there is no gatekeeper to tell us when it IS properly polished.
Now a great step is to hire a professional editor, but that editor STILL works for US, so when they are done, they will believe the BOOK is done. That may be true. It may not.
See... the thing is, I've come to believe in the hoops that it takes to get to traditional publishing. Now I have friends who have gotten through all but the last step... that it is the editorial board buy in that is giving trouble... if an agent and a publisher love it... AND think it's done... then it is probably ready. If a professional editor has seen it and then a panel of readers ALSO do not find significant problems... it is ALSO probably ready.
I had somebody argue with me not too long ago when I stated that novel drafts typically made the teens before a book was 'done'. Now I am talking for a first time (possibly second time) writer... but the person argued '4' for the first book? Seriously? I am willing to believe SOME people can do that, but on AVERAGE, to actually be clean enough to publish? I'm not buying it. I say it is in the double digits before it is actually ready... ON AVERAGE.
And I know my own self well enough to know I would never have waited that long if I hadn't committed to traditional publishing. Traditional publishing ensures that very few 'not done' get through, where self publishing, I'd bet only about 5% are actually done.
That isn't just a problem for those publishing too early though. It's a problem for everyone self publishing, as discriminating readers know there is a LOW percentage all the way done, a medium percentage not QUITE done, and a pretty large percentage (people not HERE because I think this group gets it) but there are a lot of people publishing FAR too early. This means that a lot of people aren't willing to sort the difference. It means people will opt NOT to read because there is too much noise.
My friend ALSO didn't seem to understand that being 'published' meant it was far harder to 'publish' if sales weren't really great. Those of us in this for the long haul, need a long-term plan.
So what is that... when a naked world dominatrix buys into a system? I'm not sure, but I suppose I do.