Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Best of Times . . .

Before I switch over to the main point of this post, I'll just throw out a little "works in progress" update.

The Winds of Heaven and Earth is flying off the pen; I'm north of 150,000 words now and expect to wrap the first draft of that in about a week or 10,000 more words or so.  That said, remember Hemingway's famous perspective on the state of an early manuscript: "The first draft of anything is shit."  True dat; when I look back at prose I wrote over a year ago, I cringe.  But it's raw materiel, and I force myself to think of it this way: I've just about finished excavating the marble that I'll now carve a statue of David from with my editing chisel. Or at least, his oversize penis.

(Clearly, this is a poor day for metaphor work, so maybe a bit of outlining is on the docket for the afternoon.)

I've also completed a detailed outline of the second book in the trilogy, The Dark Paths of the World, and written the first chapter of that installment (long story, but a scene I wrote near the end of The Winds of Heaven and Earth jumped all over me as the perfect opening for DPW, so I did some plot shuffling), and an rough outline for a children's book called Tinker's Chance, about a fifth-grader who discovers his principal is an evil robot who plans to replace the school's teachers with computers.  TC won't be a graphic novel, but I'm thinking heavily illustrated; we'll see.

Shifting back to our regularly scheduled program, Digital Book World's  daily newsletter (if you are an Indie author, or dabble at all in the eBook medium, I strongly urge you to subscribe to that free newsletter) showcased an interesting point / counterpoint today on the health of the current climate for authors, in light of all the tumultuous changes happening in the publishing industry..

On one side of the coin was lawyer, bestselling writer, and Author's Guild president Scott Turow.  In his April 7th Op-Ed article "The Slow Death of the American Author" in the  New York Times, Turow laments about (and somehow mixes): the recent Supreme Court decision to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, the minuscule eBook royalties doled out to authors already under contract to the Big Six, digital piracy, Google's actions ten years ago when it scanned and made available for free out-of-copyright or ambiguously copyrighted books, library book and eBook lending practices, and Amazon's recent patent to re-sell eBooks as a "sky is falling" invocation of doom and gloom.

Oh yeah.  He closes with: "Last October, I visited Moscow and met with a group of authors who described the sad fate of writing as a livelihood in Russia. There is only a handful of publishers left, while e-publishing is savaged by instantaneous piracy that goes almost completely unpoliced. As a result, in the country of Tolstoy and Chekhov, few Russians, let alone Westerners, can name a contemporary Russian author whose work regularly affects the national conversation.

The Constitution’s framers had it right. Soviet-style repression is not necessary to diminish authors’ output and influence. Just devalue their copyrights."

Somebody, quick, hand me a tissue.  Scott, jeez, I'm sorry you contracted-to-big-publisher best-selling authors are getting screwed out of eBook royalties.  Take it up with your agent.  (Or have your agent call Hugh Howey or Bella Andre's agents.)

Or maybe as president of the Author's Guild it's time to crawl out of the Big Six's bed and use your clout to help the little guy, ya think?

On the sunny side of the street was Jeremy Greenfield's article in Forbes "How the Authors Guild Is Kind of Like the NRA and Why Scott Turow Is Wrong About Authors", which, as you might guess from the title, strongly disagrees with Turow.

He goes on to question (identically to an issue I also had with Turow's piece), "So, who is Turow defending with his New York Times editorial? The small percentage of authors who benefited the most from the old publishing paradigm and who have not found a way to benefit from the new and the equally small group of authors who would have been their successors if publishing had stayed the same."

Spot on, though to be fair I believe Greenfield's comparison of the Author's Guild to the NRA is a stretch, although clever.

Greenfield goes on to cover other stuff, namely the hit non-fiction authors are taking in the new climate, but his main takeaway is the perspective I agree with: now is probably the best time in the industry's history to be an author.  When paradigms shift, there are always winners and losers, but I believe in this case that the former heavily outweigh the latter.

The main barriers to club entrance--the artificial judgment practices of the old publishing industry stalwarts--are gone, and an author can write and publish with the confidence that if his work is good, it *will* find an audience.  No one, now, can keep that from you.  Except you.

Now stop reading blogs and online articles and go write.

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