Thursday, June 03, 2010

Write More. Write Faster. Write Better. Sell Cheap.... Catch 22

"Write More, Write Faster, Write Better Quality, Write Consistently, Sell Cheap..." then, pirates promise, "we'll buy it if we like what we've already read."

At the same time, pirates complain that the ebooks they read without paying for are --pardon the expression-- "crap", and they claim that they read ebooks from pirate sites in order to avoid paying for crap.

Am I the only person to see a contradiction in what authors are told by pirates? How many first drafts are polished, first rate literature? Why does the editing process take so long? Rhetorical. I know. It takes at least six hours to read every word of a novel, probably more, and when an author is too close to her work, she sees what she expects to see, not the typo or the inexplicable name/eye color change or mis-attribution of a sentence within a fast paced dialogue scene.

Have you ever wondered why first books are often the best, and why many authors' later books in a series aren't quite as satisfying? I know that I have. I notice it most when novels abruptly wrap up in the final three pages, as if someone had yelled "Time's Up!" or whatever adjudicators say just before they collect examination papers.

When I'm sitting quietly eavesdropping on agents and book club leaders at booksignings and conventions, I often hear these industry experts wonder why a favorite author's most recent books don't live up to her earlier promise. They blame editors.

I suspect that these critics are both right, and wrong. I suspect that authors are being pushed to write faster, and they don't have the time to focus on the quality of what they write.  One might spend ten years honing a first book before an editor buys it. If it does well, the author may be offered that break-through, three-book contract, but the kicker is that the books are due at six month intervals for the next eighteen months.

That does not leave a lot of time for preliminary research, for thoughtful editing, or for revisions. No time to battle a copy-editor over a clumsy synonym that may be okay according to a thesaurus but is far from the "mot juste".

Piracy will probably increase the pressure on authors and publishers, and quality will deteriorate. I cannot see how it is not going to be a vicious spiral. To save time and money, books will not be thoroughly edited. Mistakes will slip by.

Now, this is all right if both authors and readers look on books in the same way that they look on fast food. Literary beefburger. Story telling sausage. Gobble one. Swallowing, grab another.

A speed reader probably skims a book for the story (I don't know. I don't speed read. I've seen some reviews written by prodigious readers, and have found them less than accurate, even on points of plot.)  If one has 2,000 ebooks on one's ereader and one's goal is to get through them all in a year, one is not going to spend six hours relishing nuances and turns of phrases. Ah, well! It's useless to rail against haste. We live in a fast paced world.

To sustain the food metaphor, if I'm going to consume (or write) junk, I'd still rather have something complicated and layered, like candyfloss or one of those ice creams that come in a paper-wrapped cone, and the wafer cone is lined on the inside with an invisible sheen of frozen chocolate.

How long will it be until story telling is rather like that sad joke about the convention of comedians? The guy on stage says, "Number Fifty-Two!" and everyone roars with laughter, because they all know and love joke number 52.

Alas! I liked Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries for the method. I liked the way Miss Marple solved the crime. If I wanted to simply zip through, and find out who committed the crime, I'd read the last page. Sometimes, I do read the last page before I buy a book!

I liked Arthur Hailey books because his research was fascinating and detailed, and I loved to learn true secret insider stuff. I liked George Orwell for the same reason.

I think the vociferous pirates are the locusts of literature. They'll do their thing, they always have and they always will. But if they don't respect and observe copyright laws anyway, (and as long as the government isn't seriously enforcing the laws) why do they want to change those laws for the rest of us?


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Sometimes it's like you pulled the thoughts right from my brain. I'm having a very new issue with pirates right now. My publisher is investigating but one of my books has appeared on a few pirate sites and it's not due for release until next year. How did it get there? No one has seen it except me and my publisher. It hasn't even been through final edits.
I'm furious, confused and totally confounded by this.

RowenaBCherry said...

Thank you for your comment.

How do these things happen? Do you happen to have Drop Box on your desktop?

There are some file sharing/storage sites that are alarmingly efficient, and that share stuff that absolutely should not be shared.

My sympthathies. All you can do is send take down notices.

The only comfort I can offer you is that some "pirate" sites actually lie to prospective customers.

I've entertained myself by asking such sites if they have books by

Rowennna Bumfodder Crustyattitude

and if they do, I know they are nothing to worry about.

Rowena Cherry said...

I'm following F. Paul Wilson's "Word Thieves" conversation
( )

A correspondent named Outrider has pointed out that a "significant percentage of those violating creators’ intellectual property rights do *not* view what they are doing as stealing the creators’ work..." also "... replication of content has become the norm."

Outrider concludes that "...When a significant percentage of a society ceases believing something is wrong–....–it may cease to *be* wrong, legally."

My suggestion is a test. I suspect that a significant majority of Facebook users would be outraged if their personal pages, notes, or blogs were copied and published elsewhere.

I suspect that pirates would be very concerned if their discussions or release lists were to be copied and published elsewhere.

India Drummond said...

I think some people spend years and years on their first book while they're waiting for that nibble to come. I know I probably spent even longer than that writing and rewriting until I finally decided it was unpublishable and moved on. But for some people, those years of tweaking give their MS depth and texture.

RowenaBCherry said...


So what are you doing now? Maybe, after ten years of refining, your work is publishable.

The market has changed. Maybe if your price is right, you could e-publish as JA Konrath is doing.

Good luck, whatever you decide, India.