Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Things I'll Never Figure Out as an Author

Hey all,

I was reading an article the other day and it mentioned there were some things in life you just never figure out.  Whether it was politics or why they add artificial sugar to already delicious apple juice, no matter how you try to wrap your brain around it, it will never make sense.

Well, that got me thinking about my profession and all the things that continue to confuse me.  I mean...I've been writing novels professionally for almost six years now and even before then I dabbled in magazine articles and journals.  Still, there are so many things I scratch my head over. 

So, I decided to take a leaf from the magazine and write down (since that's what I do) the 10 Things I don't think I'll ever figure out about being an author.

So, here goes...  Counting Down...

10.  I'll never understand why reviewers have so much power over authors and the publishing business.  In fact, it's often the bad reviews that whip up interest and get people reading.  And if you're like me and you like what you write already, why change it over the opinion of a few?  Why give them that power?  And as an aside, how many of you readers will be prevented from buying a book based on a review?  I've always been curious.

09.  I've given up trying to understand why some publishers (NY especially) don't make the blurbs or book covers have ANYTHING to do with the story.  I mean, if you do a poll, most readers buy books solely on those two first impressions.  So you got to wonder why they think misleading the public is a smart thing to do.  If a reader sees a blurb that talks about hot sex on a tropical island and the cover shows two lovers swinging in a hammock with a fruity drink in hand, that's what they are going to expect.  NOT the reality the couple met at the Bermuda airport and the rest of the story takes place in Anchorage, Alaska.  Please!

08.  Here's one.  Why is it that some in the publishing business think it's smart to air their dirty laundry in public?  And no.  I'm not talking about an author who has a genuine grievance with a publisher and is warning others not to fall into the trap they did.  I support that a gazillion percent.  I'm talking about those authors, editors and publishers who on a public forum with half the romance community listening in, go into a completely unprofessional rant.  I mean, do they really think we as their peers or more importantly, the readers are going to appreciate that?  Geesh!

07.  This one makes me crazy.  I'll never understand why one author will plagerise from another.  I mean, I can understand why, if you are as much as a reader as I am, a stray phrase from a favorite author might wind up in one of the stories you write.  That can and does happen.  But it's not deliberate.  Yet plagiarism is something all together different.  For one person to copy word for word, paragraphs and sometimes whole pages, not only disgusts me, it breaks my heart.  It is a despicable and self-motivating act.  Moreover, it's a kind of rape and definitely theft of the lowest kind.

06.  I will never understand the ignorance that can be present in some publishing houses.  I mean, you learn to except it, but I'll never get why one house understands the copyrighting rules down to the tee, and works well with Fair Use Laws, while another shivers at the thought and won't allow you to allude to the most basic of soda drinks for fear of a major lawsuit.  While I admit it's not a black and white issue, you'd think if you're going into this business you'd have a good understanding of one of it's most important rules.  Why is it the author's job to instruct them???

05.  I spoke to a new author the other day who was so excited with her first sale.  She had a lot of questions and was already spending her first royalty check.  Perfectly okay.  I did the same thing.  But as the conversation progressed it became apparent for this author it was all about the money. When I gently cautioned her not to count her proverbial chickens, she was blunt in informing me that she only started writing because it was so easy to make money at the game.  She was sure she was going to make as much money as JK Rowling or Agatha Christie.  I just shook my head and couldn't figure out why some people in this business don't do their research before they begin.  Sure, she might be one of the lucky ones and take off like a rocket to Mars, but even JK went for years without a bite.  The money might be there now, but it was lean for a very long time.

04. This one bugs the heck out of me.  I'll never understand why it's so hard to speak out against the wrong in this business.  Publishers not paying royalties or abusing their authors.  Editors who couldn't edit their way out of a paper bag.  Business practices who would put a seasoned con man to shame.  I mean, wrong is wrong, but for some reason fear takes over and this is one time that adage our mama taught us takes hold, "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all." Please!  Each of us must follow our conscience, but if you are keeping quiet out of fear, relook at your motives.  Fear is the mind killer.  We stop making good decisions when we're scared.  We should be able to professionally convey our concerns or problems and not be labeled a diva because of it.  So if you're in that position and afraid to speak out, get another opinion.  Look at who else might be affected.  But above all, don't allow yourself to be abused a minute longer!

03.  Arrgh matey!!!!  I'll never understand these guys.  Pirates.  And I'm not talking the Johnny Depp kind.  (he's just hot!)  I'm referring to those parasites who steal an artist's work and then wonder why we get so upset about it.  They whine about not being able to afford it or we are being too greedy.  *shakes head*  Seriously, I can't afford that cherry red Mustang convertible 1965 yet, but you don't see me stealing one off a classic car lot!  And if wanting to be paid for the work I do is greedy, so be it.  I'll bet those bloody pirates would pitch a major fit if their paycheck was given to someone else because their employer thought they were too greedy and didn't need it all!!!!

02.  Okay, this is another difference between houses, but it's also a personal pet peeve, so that pushes it up high on the list.  I'll never understand why editors or houses believe they are the all knowing Gods about what a reader wants.  Seriously, you can say this is what your house likes, and I'm totally cool with that.  IT IS YOUR HOUSE.  But when you start talking about how EVERY reader wants it this way and EVERY publishing house in New York does it this way, you're stepping into dangerous territory.  Case in point is POV switches in a scene.  I've been told so many things about this one issue my head spins.  And I shake my head at those who says NO REAL AUTHOR writes different POVs within a scene.  Really?  I bet La Nora would love to hear you say that.  I mean, one of the best selling romance authors of all time, Nora Roberts, would be fascinated to hear you don't think she's a real author.  Guess she better send back those millions she's made writing all those POV switches.

01.  So we've come to number one. And I have to admit, this is something I know I will never figure out as long as I continue to write.  It's not a issue that can even be resolved.  I wouldn't even try because it would be a fruitless exercise...

Why is it that one reader will adore, love and recommend your work, while another doesn't think it's worth lining a bird cage floor with?

I know each person is different and we all like different things.  After all, how boring life would be otherwise.  But I always shake my head when I get letters that talk about the exact same thing from different sides.  For example, in the Mylari Chronicles Series, Calion, the hero of Eyes of Fire is often the subject of fan letters.  (You usually hate him until you love him.  LOL)

I got one letter where the reader loved him so much she wanted to eat him up with chocolate cherry ice cream.  *Hmmm.  Okay.*  She's read Eyes of Fire so many times it's dog eared, and she actually bought a second copy for fear she'd be without the first.  And her favorite part of the book is this one scene where Calion and Talia make love for the first time.  She says no matter how many times she reads it she swoons.  (her words not mine)  And I have to admit, I puffed up like a peacock when I read her message.

Then I got a letter from another fan who loves my books, but hated Calion with a purple passion.  Seriously, the names she called this poor elf were vile.  And the things she wanted to do to his anatomy were NOT ones a guy would look forward to.  And her least favorite scene?  You guessed it...where Calion and Talia come together for the first time.

I got these letters within a couple days of each other.  I looked at the first one, then at the second and just shook my head.  I can understand different opinions, but these readers were rabid about how they felt and so diametrically different, it blew my mind.

And it is just because of this difference that I'll never figure it out.  I've decided it hurts my head and heart to even try.  Better to write what I love and hope it finds a home in someone else's heart as well.

So there you have it.  10 Things I'll Never Figure Out as an Author.  Now how about you?  Is there something completely mind-boggling that you'll never understand?  Share in the comments below.

Be back on Wednesday to chat again.  I have a special holiday interview with a hot and handsome hunk who just happens to be NOT OF THIS WORLD.  *grin*

CJ England  

 Follow Your Dreams


Phylis said...

This one is probably not high up and I haven't had that much experience in the publishing world but reviewers who review a book that isn't the genre they like to read. There review ends up picking apart the genre and not about the book. Great points all CJ.

CJ England said...

Excellent point, Phylis. And they always start out by saying, "I usually don't like romance, but...

It's like me reading and trying to review a self-help book. I hate those things. Why would I put myself through reading one? And why in H E double toothpicks would I review one???

D. Musgrave said...

Here's one for you. My top pet peeve, authors wanting to break into the NY publishing houses have to have an agent. Okay, fine. Then why is it so hard to get an agent? The whole system is backward.

The author has to convince an agent to sign them on so they can make money off the author? Name another business where the employer has to send a resume(Query letter) to a prospective employee?

The cart is in front of the horse.

CJ England said...


I never thought about it that way, but you're right. Totally backwards and extremely frustrating!