Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Few More Thoughts on PA

Wow - I got sucked into this vortex of fascination (how's THAT for a metaphor??) regarding PublishAmerica (and because I am sick of writing it out, I'll now abbreviate to PA.). I guess this is what happens when I try to do research and my mind begins to wonder and I click here, I click there and LOOK... how the #$%&@ did I end up here?

So, I received an interesting comment in my last post (thanks for wandering my way, Orion!) about how so many people expect publishing to be... dare I say it?... easy.

Well, it's not.


And here is where PA gets you.

I enjoy research almost as much as I do writing (and I don't think that makes me too crazy), and so once I began poking around those message boards, I had to see what else was out there.

On one thread, a writer mentioned that he'd finished his rewrite and was going to send it out to publishers. If they rejected him, he'd check out PA.

So what's wrong with that, you might ask.

He'd just finished his 2nd rewrite.

And again, you might ask So what?

Most of the writers I know (and this includes NYT bestselling authors, mind you) will own up to at least 6, but closer to 10, rewrites. Per book. Editing and rewriting up to ten times. My norm is eight drafts before I think something's ready to go. And that's not counting when I've scrapped a partial to try again (or finish the whole damn book and realize there's no plot - but that's another post).

And I actually wondered why anyone would choose PA. Silly me.

It is not easy going from pencil and paper to finished book. It's not at all easy.

That makes me think of the line from A League of Their Own (which is one of the BEST baseball movies ever made), where Geena Davis complains that it's too hard and Tom Hanks tells her 'The hard is what makes it great.' Or something like that, because that sounds way too... well, I won't go there.

The fact that it is something a writer has to spend sometimes years working at is what makes it great. If everyone could do it, what's the point? And sure, vanity presses make it possible for everyone to do it, but that doesn't make them all authors. Altho, to be honest, I'm not really sure what the difference is between writer and author. Aha, something else to research!

Yes, it is an accomplishment to write a manuscript, whether it's the first or the fiftieth. It takes a lot of time, a lot of sweat, and a lot of determination. So if you finish it, terrific and you deserve a pat on the back.

Publication is not - let me repeat that - IS NOT a reward. You don't get it simply because you finished a manuscript. You work for it and you work hard for it. You write. You rewrite. You do a synopsis (which sucks, to be honest. I hate writing them.) You query. You learn your craft continuously. You pays your dues.

And when you get that call, the work keeps going. Your editor makes suggestions, changes this or that, and so on. It's all part of the process. And when you're finished - voila! - you have a book.

I don't have the option of not having my manuscripts edited. And that's a good thing because in my first book, my hero and heroine had an argument over something silly. Then the heroine proceeded to give our gallant hero the silent treatment.

For something like two weeks.

I never really thought about it, until my editor asked, "Isn't that holding a grudge just a little too long?"

Um... yeah. It was. I rewrote the scene and it made a whole lot more sense.

From what I understand, a writer has the option at PA to not have their book edited. At all. Nada. None.


Now, I've reread my manuscripts to the point where my eyeballs are ready to burst into flame and I hate everything about everyone in the thing. And then I get my galleys and my editor points out things that I - gasp - missed.

The thing is, when you are so involved in something, you tend to see what you think should be on the page. It's not always what actually is on the page. Hence, the editor.

On the PA boards, you see things like, there are mistakes and typos in every book. One person wrote that they'd found one mistake in a Shannon Drake novel. I remember in one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels (which I buy in hardcover the day they are released - I love those books!) there is a secondary character who is a mobster's daughter and was once a NY Giants cheerleader.

The NY Giants don't have cheerleaders. As far as I know, they've never had them.

But that is the only slip I've ever seen that really stuck in my mind. Yeah - typos happen - there are a few in my own books. And I hate them. I hate the fact that they're there. I can't just do the 'oh well... every book has them'. They might. But I don't want MINE to, that's for damn sure. Still, I missed them. My editor missed them. My copy editor missed them. Grrr... I want to apologize to everyone who's read them. I'm sorry. I effed up.

But to say that it's ok because all books have typos... what's THAT about?

That aside, I wandered over to Amazon to check out some of those books. Some of them sounded pretty interesting, actually. But I'm not paying $20 for a 200 page paperback. I know, I'm repeating, bear with me.

Still curious, I read some of the reviews. All were glowing. Great. I don't want to see anyone bashed unless they really deserve it.

Then I noticed something.

All of these glowing reveiws were written by other PA Authors.

Now, I'm not saying that these books aren't as good as the ones reveiwed by independent reviewers, or review sites. Maybe they are. But the whole thing smacks to me as conflict of interest (or whatever one might call it). If the only people praising your work are your fellow PA authors, it raises my eyebrows. And when you see A review B and B give A equally glowing reviews, it just doesn't smell right.

In today's world, with the resources at hand, anyone who goes to PA blindly (ha - I originally wrote blondely...) deserves what they get. It's sad, but ignorance is no excuse when the information one needs is so readily available, don't cry to me because no 'real' publisher wants to hear from you. And that's the truth of the matter. PA is a joke. It's worse than vanity because they lie about their business model. They feed upon the hopes and aggravations of people who either don't have the moxie to stick it out and learn the craft and earn their right to be published, or just don't have the talent and don't know it.

At least with a vanity press, an agent might take a look at your book. Maybe. Go with PA and that maybe will most likely become a huge no. And that is also sad because there are probably some pretty good books out there that have been forever tainted with the PA association.

It's sad to look at those boards and see people excited over receiving their advance. You know what that advance is? $1.

WTF is that? That's not an advance, it's an insult. They can tout the symbolism of it until they are blue in the face. It's a freakin' insult. And it's a way they can claim to be 'traditional' without financial damage to themselves. It's also a way to further snooker the naive.

OK - I've rambled long enough. That's my piece and if there are any PA authors who happen upon this who would like to prove me wrong, I open up the floor to them. Of course I will also suggest they go look at P&E and see how many other 'satisfied' PA authors there are who are either taking legal action, or beating themselves silly over their naivete. They should check out the past message boards and see how many names no longer show up, and why they don't.

But most of all, I hope that those who truly want to become published, who want to write because they love words and they love books and they have a story to tell, learn to suck it up and put in the work that it requires. You don't have to be a big name to break into the business, you have to be able to grasp basic English, know punctuation and proper grammar, and can tell a great story. Sure, there will always be the famous and infamous who have no business being able to call themselves an author (yeah - I'm sure they all write their own books...), but most of the writers I know worked their asses off to get to where they are, and they continue to bust themselves with each new project. I write late into the night, when my family's asleep, and I get up at 7 the next morning to get kids off to school and get the day started. I write when I can and edit when I can. I've joined groups to better myself at my craft and I learn a little bit more each time.

There is no free lunch. PA is like rancid tuna. Seems like a good idea at the time, and then you are praying at the porcelain throne. Or something to that effect.

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