Thursday, July 13, 2006

Am I Jumping on the Bandwagon?

Maybe a little, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

So lately there's been lots of lalala happening in Blogland. Bloggers being snarky, writers stepping in and being downright shitty, publishers threatening everyone. Romancing the Blog had a post about this the other day (the link will take you straight to said post. If you feel up to it, read some of the comments. Specifically mine. Here's what I said:

"I think it’s about time we all started saying something about this. Romance has a bad enough reputation as it is, the last thing we need is for readers to start saying, “And the romance writers act like whiny children when criticized, too.”

If your boss criticized your performance, would you start calling him/her names? Not if you wanted to keep your job, you wouldn’t.

The readers are my bosses. They’re all of our bosses, no matter how much a few writers would have us believe they’re somehow superior to those pesky readers."

Guess which part of the comment I thought might get people talking? That's right, the bit about how shit like this spoils the reps of romance writers in general. Because it does. Publish America doesn't get reviews, in large part because they're shit, but also because the few places that took pity on their writers and did review them found themselves knee-deep in nasty letters if they didn't give the book a glowing, five-star recommend.

That wasn't the part that people responded to, though. Instead they all had to leap on my to tell me how readers aren't their bosses, they would never see the readers as their bosses, they work for themselves and I'm just wrong to the nth level of wrong for daring to suggest that we keep our readers in mind when we write, and that we not pop into their blogs to call them names if we don't like their response.

Okay, it was an analogy, folks. That's all. The example worked. I suppose I could have said "You don't insult your customers if they hve a complaint about your service" but the fact is someone would have said something pissy about that too (aside from the fact that I worked in Customer Service and retail for years and regularly insulted my customers. And no, I wasn't a dominatrix.) The problem with the customer analogy is that it is easy to insult one customer. You know if they want your product they'll probably be back, unless you spit at them and call them horrible names. We've all had bad service somewhere and still gone back because we really do love the food, or because the store is right near our houses, or whatever.

But readers aren't like that, and you don't fuck with your boss. Your boss is sacrosanct to his face. To tell your boss what a flaming dillweed he is to his face is career suicide. So should it be with our readers. To have your boss assign you to a project on, say, development of a new sales script, and you turn around and give him a project on the way fountains would brighten up the building's grounds, is a perhaps less serious form of career suicide, but a bad idea just the same. So it is with readers. Yes, we write for ourselves. But once we're published, our writing for ourselves--or rather, our livelihood therefrom--is governed not just by our own whims, but by those of our readers.

The other ranty thing happened on a different blog. Contracts were being discussed, and some brave anonymous popped in to say how any writer who signs a contract with a certain publisher (I think I know who it was) must be desperate because the contract is so bad. They turned it down, because their work is better than that and they want to find the right home for their baby. Arguments ensued, which I followed with great interest.

While I understand that mindset (except for insulting writers who made different choices than you did), I don't agree with it. You know why? Because while each book I write is my baby, it's not my only baby. I know I will write another one, probably an even better one. (Like, for example, Prince of Death, out Jan 07 from Whiskey Creek Press-Torrid! Which to be honest I thought kind of sucked, but last night I reread it and was pleasantly surprised. It's not bad. So you should all buy it. Anyway.) Selling a manuscript is selling a manuscript to me. So the contract for this one or that one isn't the best. So I wish I had found a bigger publisher for that one or that one. Whatever.

There will be other books. My books are not me. They are not full of my precious, golden words that only the exalted may gaze upon. They're stories, and I love them, but I'm also in this business to try and earn a living. I've chosen to start at the bottom and work my way up. I have complete faith in my writing and my books, this has nothing to do with that. But if I can go to an agent or editor with some credits, I might have a little leg up. I might be less of a risk than someone with no credits.

And if not, I'm still earning money as a writer while they wait for That Perfectly Author-Friendly Contract, because they won't sell this book until they find it. Which means they will probably never sell the book. Why? Because they've gotten their egos so wrapped up in it that they think it's their only chance. I know each book I write is not my only chance. Not by a long shot. I'm in this for the long haul, which means I'm working as hard as I can and selling what I can. An unsold ms is not a precious baby who still needs a home. It's however many months of my life wasted. And yes, maybe one day I'll sell it, when I'm a huge bestseller and people are desperate for anything by me :-). But until then it's still months of my life wasted. (And btw, when I hit that bestseller list, you better believe I'll be buying out my less-than-perfect contracts, baby.)

Well. I have really rambled on. I had some questions for yall, but I think I'll post them tomorrow.


Bernita said...

Very well put, December.
Some common sense.

December Quinn said...

Thanks you, Bernita! I actually have more ranting to do on this topic, but I decided that was enough for one day. :-)

It seems common sense is sadly lacking in some circles these days.

Anonymous said...

I agree with bernita, very good common sense. I will add this, though:

If you write to be published, I think you must have your readers in mind. This is especially true for a “new” author. If you’ve made your millions, write what the fuck you want. On the other hand, I write for pleasure and as an escape. I never submit my “stuff” to agents or publishers and probably never will (and many agents and publishers should be grateful for that!) So, I do not have to write with anyone in mind. I just write what’s on my mind or in my imagination. Sometimes my family asks me what I’m writing and ask to read it. Sometimes I actually let them, but, I never write with them in mind and hoping to write something they like. As I said, that is not why I write. If I ever do decide I want to see my stuff in book form, I will probably just do it through LuLu. That way I will not have to change what I write or how I write it.

I said all of that to say you are right, december. -JTC

December Quinn said...

Thanks, JTC, especially for making one of my points with far more skill than I did--if you write with the intent to have other people read your work, you're not just writing for yourself.

Someone told me the readers weren't their bosses, they were her "audience". Like she was so important people gathered in stadiums to hear what she had to say. Yeeeah...they're not your audience, they're your readers. If you act like a bitch and start writing shitty books, they'll stop reading.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Can I get a HELL, YEAH!

I hate that sanctimonious "I write for me me me" crap. Sorry to insult a bucketload of literary authors (no, not all of them), but if you write for you, then don't bother submitting to publishers any more and leave some room on the shelves for those of us who want to be read and enjoyed.

This comment does not include JTC! JTC, thanks for stating that. You're one of the few people who aren't lying to themselves when they say "I write for myself." :-)

Cara North said...

This was an awesome post. I agree that readers are the head boss, it is their dollars that keep us in buisness. I apparently need to get out and read more bloggs more often, I usually spin around once a month. And on a side note, if your books are filled with even an ounce of the passion in that post-you'll get to that best seller list!
Cara North

December Quinn said...

Wow, thanks Cara! I love it when new people come by and compliment me extravagantly! Please stick around. I rant a lot. :-)