isn’t it, just how often those three words are used to describe the
wild and wacky publishing industry. Just as amazing, it seems that
almost everybody—readers, writers, and an assortment of industry
professionals—has at least two cents to toss into the discussion.
Let’s begin with a few examples
of reader grievances:
Story’s too dark
Plot’s too violent
Hate the cover
And add to the list a couple of
the objections cited by reviewers:
Flashbacks . . . ick!
Dream sequences . . . ugh!
Lack of character motivation
Story doesn’t start in the right place
Novel has a sagging middle
Now how about if we take into
consideration what editors might add about authors
to the pre-existing list:
Routinely misses deadlines
Has prima donna tendencies
Refuses to accept editorial guidance
And let’s not forget that agents
have a thing or three to tack on:
Author expects molly-coddling
On the other side of the coin, authors’
gripes sound something like this:
Without authors and our books,
nobody else in the industry would have a job, so why are we at the
bottom of the totem pole?
Publishers’ advances are way too
Print runs are way too small.
Royalty percentages are way too small.
My agent/editor doesn’t return calls/e-mails.
My publisher isn’t doing enough to help me market the book.
My family won’t cooperate with my crazy schedule.
I hate writers’ conferences.
I hate booksellers’ conventions.
I hate hearing envious “other” writers’ comments about my success.
I hate hearing “other” writers’ attitudes toward my genre.
I hate hearing “literary types” who think all genre fiction is trash.
I hate book signings!
I could go on . . . and on and
on. But you get my drift. And while most of these points pertain
primarily to writing and publishing fiction, much
the same can be said about nonfiction, as well.
So whether we’re writers,
distributors, librarians, wholesalers, bookstore managers/owners,
agents, editors, marketing gurus, Web site designers, or a family
member of a published author, we’ve heard the disgruntled din.
But if you listen closely,
you’ll hear a noise that’s far more pleasant . . . and just as common.
day, as I read my e-mail or visit one of my social-networking sites,
I’m reminded why I love this business. Because there, in crisp
black-and-white, is red-hot proof that happiness, satisfaction, and
fulfillment is even more widespread than the whimpering:
Writers share the good news of a
Writers share “learned the hard way” lessons to “lessen” our writing
Writers share tips about which company wants what types of stories.
Writers talk up their pals’ books.
of publishers sending chocolates to their authors abound.
Editors thank authors for a job well done.
Agents thank editors for contracting their clients.
Clients thank agents for believing in their talents.
Readers write authors to praise their latest novels.
Writers write readers to thank them for their support.
sorta like what so many of
us have remarked after reading the newspaper or watching the TV news:
Though millions of teens work hard in school, obey their parents, and
contribute to society, the media chooses to focus most of its attention
on kids who aren’t doing the right things.
We can choose to ignore those
negative stories and put our attention on the positive ones, instead.
And the same can be said for “publishing industry bellyaching.” Next
time you hear someone complaining or criticizing or carping about some
facet of the publishing industry, you can decide to get caught up in
the bleating, or you can center your mind on all the wonderful,
uplifting, supportive, industry-related things taking place all around
Each of us face hundreds of
choices every single day of our lives, from whether we’ll put in that
thirty minutes of exercise (like we promised on New Year’s Eve) to what
to have for lunch to how we’ll react when someone cuts us off in
traffic. The immediate and long-lasting results of
those decisions have the power to change our moods, set the tone for
the day, affect how we interact with others, and determine how we’ll
approach our work.
Human instinct guides us away
from those dark and dreary souls whose negativity threatens to drag us
into their doldrums. We avoid in-laws and neighbors who greet us with a
whine fest or browbeat us with so-called constructive criticism.
So why would we choose
to dwell on depressing dialogue, whether live and in person, printed in
an industry magazine, or typed into the body of an e-mail? Negativity
is magnetic; each off-putting thought invites another, and pretty soon
our heads are swirling with pessimism that paints frowns on our faces,
turns our voices growly and our words sour. We take that attitude to
the keyboard, and it shows up in our characters, in our descriptions of
scenery, in the interactions between characters.
Our agents pick up on it as they
scan our manuscripts in preparation for submission. Editors feel it as
they decide whether or not to contract the work. Readers pick up on
it—if indeed the book makes it that far—and though they may not express
their views in a letter to you, you can bet your sweet external hard
drive that they’ll spell it out, loud and clear, to their reader
Call me Pollyanna, but I’d much
rather view the Writing World through rose-colored glasses than see it
as the setting for “a dark and stormy night.”
Keep a good thought, kiddos, and
keep those fingers on your keyboards. Happy writing!