Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Publishing Industry Watch

2011-03-04 08:37:10
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There is an interesting discussion going on over on LinkedIn in the Writing Mafia group about "Snobby Writers". As a (published) writer, a recruiter in the tech field, an avid reader, and someone that both attends and puts on writing conferences, I feel qualified to make some observations. Snobby is being defined as believing that only traditionally published authors (meaning by a third party publishing house on paper) is intrinsically a better product than eBooks. I must say, I have to disagree to a great degree.

Here's why. I've read really bad books that have been published by major NY houses. And I've read some really good eBooks. And vice versa, of course. The deciding factor comes down to editing. The argument from the "Snobby" writers tends to be that publishing house editors really know their trade and enhance a book immensely. ePubs don't all have editors (some do). And especially the recent storm about the young 26-year old woman that is taking the Kindle market by storm the question becomes: who is the judge of what is "good" writing?

I try to be fair in my assessments. On all sides, you have the voice of the readers, at large. While huge sales are by no means the only definitive criteria of "good" writing, it certainly is a reasonable indicator. (You don't get to be on the the New York Times bestseller list if you aren't a "best seller.") And in this day and age of community opinion, how many of us have never read the comments on to see whether or not they were positive endorsements of a book? Exactly.

So, let's talk about editors, and specifically about publishing house editors. For those of you that don't know the traditional publishing world in any depth, there is a process that is akin to a job search. You submit a query letter (which is sort of the equivalent of a resume/cover letter combined) and a sample of your work. Each publishing house has different rules you must follow for submission, on its website. Once you have submitted your work, it is then given to an editor who is responsible for your genre, or type of writing (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.) Theoretically, this person knows what is "hot" in your category currently and what constitutes "good" writing (plot, characters, dialogue, and basic use of English.) They read either a few sentences, paragraphs, or pages of your book then either say "yes" or "no". If it is a "no" there are levels of rejection letters you receive. If they like the basics, they may send you a personalized rejection that tells you how to make it better and an invitation to resubmit. But the majority of rejections are form letters. Editors are the cogs that make the wheels of the publishing industry turn.

Now, a diligent (as opposed to "good") author is familiar with the process of writing a novel/book. First you write it and edit it yourself. Then you seek external opinions in various forms. That can be a critique group or partner, or hiring a professional (freelance) editor, or possibly sending it directly to an agent. As with any professional endeavor, training is available in various forms. Articles, workshops, conferences, etc. So there really is no excuse to not learning the way the industry works.

In addition, epubs offer agents and publishing houses both unparalleled access to exciting new authors at very low cost. But here's the thing: as excellent new writers emerge on the epub scene, I'm guessing they aren't going to be interested in traditional publishing where they lose so much of the rights to profits.

The way I see it, if NY (and global) publishing houses don't start embracing epublishing and *appropriately staffing* for the shift, their time is limited. I see an upswing in the number of freelance editors out there with "big house" experience as well as the emergence of some exciting new talent. My observations are based on my expertise as a technical recruiter as well as an author.

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