Saturday, July 06, 2013

How much ego belongs in your success?

 

The publishing business has been changing by leaps and bounds in recent years as the electronic media forms become vastly more acceptable than they were a few short years ago. No longer the “poor relation” of traditional print, eBooks account for millions upon millions of books sold each year now. BUT, with the lightning speed with which books can be created and released to the public, have we chosen to forego quality for quantity and quick recognition? (The answer to that would be a resounding YES, by the way.)

There’s a shift beginning in the industry after a few years of “no rules” being the general rule. It’s slow, but it’s definitely starting to make itself felt. So, let’s have a look at some of that change. In recent years many people with little to nothing for experience and knowledge of publishing have been rushing to deliver their books to online publishers.  Hey, it couldn’t really be any easier, could it? All you need is a computer, a word processing program, and an email address. Who needs prior experience to write a story, after all?

Well, for those who are real/natural writers, there IS a whole lot more to it. My personal experience of the industry at this point in time is somewhat jaded, and with good reason. The internet is the most amazing marvel of the 21st century, but with the new technology has come a lot of really dark and nasty. Authors who attack other authors, congregate in online forums to trash their peers and publishers the moment things don’t go their way, authors who have zero conscience about lying, cheating, and using to get where they want to be. I’ve watched one author attack his publisher with such vehemence that the publisher considered shutting down rather than fight the misplaced ego and arrogance of the author. Realistically, this moderately talented writer would have been blacklisted and shunned twenty-five years ago for the shit he pulled. All things considered, that’s what should have happened here. However, the one thing that’s guaranteed in all this is the internet itself never really forgets, and if you attack other authors, and your publishers, it will always be there…search engines have better memories than elephants, so think carefully before you put it out there, because it will come back to haunt you–probably when you want it least.

Apart from business sense, the appalling lack of basic manners is another serious issue many new “authors” appear to suffer from. So many call themselves authors, then prove they can’t be bothered to even read the publisher’s website before submitting. There is a format each publishing house outlines, and a time frame in which you can expect to be notified of an editorial decision about acceptance or rejection. Instead of reading these things, ask any publisher how often they get manuscripts that are in no standardized format at all, never mind one complying with their guidelines. Some will tell you submissions have even come in the form of a link to the work–as though the acquisitions editor of ANY publishing house has time to track down someone’s work because they were too lazy to submit it properly. If the author doesn’t give a damn, why should the publisher?

Of course, there are those who know nothing about general protocols, and once rejected ask for explanations. Bad move there, because one of the things that never changes is asking for reasons. If the editor sees promise, he or she may take the time to explain the decision that’s been made. If not, asking will only get you listed as someone who isn’t professional, and it’s unlikely you’ll be welcome to submit again.

There are rules. If you don’t know them, learn them. Courtesy will allow you some leeway, but if your ego and/or arrogance puts you in a position where you think you can make demands, then you’re already failing. What too many writers fail to realize these days is that the publisher is the employer, and the author is the employee. One doesn’t do well without the other, but as it happens in most businesses, you still don’t tell your boss how you plan to do your job.

Professionals recognize that there is no perfect book. Editors, good ones, are a serious writer’s best friend, not the enemy. Take every opportunity you are given to learn and improve your skills. Frankly, only speaking for myself, I’m sick to death of overblown egos thinking they should have things just the way they want them, and that they’re granting the publisher some special right to publish their work. Really? Get real! Nothing you can bring to the table is so new that it will be golden from the get-go. Get over yourself.

Then there’s the start at the top breed… those authors who think they’re so good, and their book so extraordinary that they can pick and choose the publisher they want. With zero credentials and past sales, why do so many think they can submit to the top of the line publishers. Like most arts, writing is one of those things that requires you earn your reputation, not demand to have it given to you. Dues are still to be paid, and if you’re lucky enough to find a small house that believes in you and will work with you–grab that contract and learn all you can before you think about moving up to the bigger houses.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Check your ego at the door, and learn your craft if you want to be taken seriously. For myself, I’m fed up being asked to open doors, read manuscripts that I’m expected to take to publishers on behalf of the new Shakespeares out there who think they’re too good to have to pay the dues many of us have paid. There is no short track in this business, not if you want to be taken seriously, so suck it up and take a really good look at yourself before you ask someone to do your job for you. Every day in this industry there’s a new lesson to learn–but if you think you already know it all anyway, you’ll never survive… Success and ego are incompatible regardless of what level of publishing you’re approaching. If you don’t learn any other lesson, learn that one, and you might stand a chance of being professional.


21 comments:

  1. I love networking and talking to people especially other authors but like the saying goes, "You can lead an idiot to the promise land but you can't make them break their addiction to stupid." Here's some free advice-when you (the novice writer/author)go around jilting authors and acting like you just were kicked off the "Here's Honey Boo Boo Show Meets Jerry Springer" all over Facebook and in online groups-you are not hurting the author; your intended victim. NO what you are doing is hammering six inch nails into your writing career coffin. Here's the important part and watch as I enunciate every word...NO PUBLISHER OR BOOK/LITERARY AGENT WILL TAKE YOU ON. THEY WILL NOT EVEN READ YOUR QUERY LETTERS IF YOU HAVE GOTTEN YOURSELF A REPUTATION FOR ACTING LIKE A GREEDY, OVERBEARING, OVERLY INDULGENT, IDIOTIC, UNPROFESSIONAL, RUMOR STARTING, BACKSTABBING, BACK TALKING, COMMON SENSE DEFICIENT TART. Great blog post Denyse. Lead Paint Chip abuse has needed someone to shine the light on how idiots are made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nikki. As always, you don't pull your punches and you put it out there as it is. Well said.

      Delete
  2. Well stated, Denyse. I commend you as being an author who shares knowledge as I see so many out there who are not willing to share, and other new authors who attack the experienced ones who are trying to help them. Crazy times we live in, and nothing can be swept under a rug anymore if you are trying to build a good name for yourself and are putting yourself out there for the world to see.
    Love Your Posts ! Keep them Coming for this new author relishes advice and will always find myself as a learner. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lorraine. Most of us don't have a lot to give new authors, or those who want to write in a pro-market. However, we do have our experiences, such as they are, and if that 10 years of steady work has taught me things that can help someone else's path be a little less fraught with disappointment, or show them how to avoid critical mistakes, I'm willing to put it out there. Sadly, there are few who will really want to accept what doesn't stroke their egos, but that's the real problem anyway.

      I wrote for 20 years before I ever decided to attempt to take my work to publishers, I learned a lot during that time, and it's served me well. Even when there are authors on the attack - the publishers, agents, and other pros have respected the professionalism. That goes a long way in this industry, and it's a lesson many need to learn. Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  3. I do agree with submissions been at that end boy is it a night mare. I do think if everyone paid things forward none of this would be, learning kindness to others and being a good person should not just pertain to online activity but your real life as well. Yes I would help people, and I have been burnt. I refuse to allow others to change the person I want to be.
    Loved this article, you always have very eloquent way of putting things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you, Tina. Basic decency seems to have become a thing of the past with far too many people looking for an opportunity to use someone to make their rise to fame and fortune easy. You have always been a kind and generous supporter of everyone's work, and it speaks well of what a wonderful lady you are. Thanks, Tina.

      Delete
  4. Denyse, you have to know how much I respect you and appreciate all the little tidbits of advice you and others have given to Patricia and I. It shocks me how much lack of respect has evolved not just in this area, but seemingly in ALL areas of life these days. I think the insulation and anonymity the internet appears to provide is a major reason for it. I'm just not wired that way. There is ALWAYS room for respect of other people, and instead of jumping to the conclusion that everyone is out to get you, first take a look at the common denominator in every interaction you have - YOU!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Aaron. That respect goes both ways, and I hope you know it. Like you, I believe the core problem here is a lack of basic common courtesy. People are so caught up in their own little dramas and lives, they forget they're only a tiny part of the larger whole of business and humanity. Paranoia is the fast-track to Crazyville, but it seems to run the world for too many people. Experience is a wealth in the publishing industry, and what it tells me often is that you need to work, every day, and never stop learning how to make your work better.

      Delete
  5. Denyse, Denyse, Denyse...my sweet girl. :) You know that you and I are usually of like minds when it comes to topics in the publishing industry and I can that on the subject of this matter it's no different. While I echo your sentiments, I feel that (sadly) you're wasting your breath. Please understand that I agree with you, BUT.. (and this is the real problem with people like you or I expecting others to act as adults who have consequences for their bad) times have changed - and not for the better - and lately it's not just some of the authors who should not be in the publishing world, but some publishers as well. Some people do not have the mental fortitude, the business savvy or the intellect to handle themselves or business dealings in a professional manner. That's (again, sadly) when the egos jump out of their skin and begin to scream and holler because there isn't even the slightest possibility that they could be wrong in a situation. But, I digress before I type for hours.. bottom line is, we cannot expect those with the mind of a child to act as an adult. It simply will never happen. Just my 2 cents. ;) Love ya!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That awkward moment when you see missing words in your post. DAMN YOU BLOGGER! I will get you! LOL

      Delete
    2. Oh, I agree.... a thousand percent. I can think of several publishers who are irresponsible and create better accounting fiction than the books they publish. The authors? It's getting to the point where you wonder if there are any real writers amid the arena of "authors" who are preening and prancing around showing off their brilliance... Sadly, change will be slow... and I wonder if the real pros in this business will have the endurance to wait it out?? Love you, too, Nic - and thanks for coming by!! :)

      Delete
  6. Great Advice to all authors. Thanks DB!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Annette. Glad you stopped by.

      Delete
  7. It may be that this behavior is becoming more prevalent because the internet makes it so easy to do, but I think there were always some wannabe-writers behaving like this. I started attending SF&F conventions in the late 70's, when many authors loved meeting their fans, and talking about writing with those who hoped to follow in their paths. By the mid- to late-80's, however, more and more pros were making it clear that they no longer wanted to talk about how newbies could get published, didn't want to receive any more manuscripts to comment on, etc.. BECAUSE - they were getting screwed. Repeatedly. Many of them were even sued by people they had hoped to help, being accused of stealing story ideas and such-like.

    Now, it appears the internet has brought more of these wannabes out of the electronic woodwork than anyone ever thought existed, in virtually every literary genre. They believe they all deserve to be welcomed by publishers and experienced authors with open arms and nothing but praise for their writing, regardless of its quality. Of course, they're all such gifted writers that their submissions couldn't possibly be bad enough to be criticized or (gulp) rejected, so it's the pros who are deliberately attacking them and who deserve to be viciously attacked in return.

    I have to wonder if there aren't a lot of pros who aren't seriously considering retiring simply because they're getting sick of the whole situation!

    Very good blog, Denyse.

    Roberta

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Roberta. The problem with all of this "social networking" online now is that you have only words to trust people... there is no eye contract, no instinctive ability to read people the way most do by instinct. It's opened up a whole world of potential dangers.

      I've considered quitting, though I know that's not big deal, and unlikely anyone would even notice, but part of me is just too damn stubborn to let these breed of user win. I keep hoping that talent will once again be the judge, but only time will tell.

      Manners need to be retaught to many, however.

      Delete
  8. Wow, ladies, you all make some telling points. Lack of courtesy seems to pervade our world today. Decency does always win, it's just that it's a long race and sometimes that's not evident until the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does seem to be the prevailing trend, doesn't it, Miriam? And without some basic sense and respect for others, I don't see much chance of things getting prettier - if anything, we're more likely to see more raging egos and crap work pushed into an already over-saturated market.

      Delete
  9. There has to be a certain amount of ego as an artist; whether that's a writer, painter or a musician. There has to be that undeniable self belief to be successful.
    A lot of artistic performers are exactly that. Performers. They LIKE the process of showing off their talents, and to me, writing is no different. An author writes because they have this need to 'show off' what they can do. It is human nature. It's not exclusive to any one field of work. I am *very* good at what I do, which is a million miles away from being an author, BTW.
    I do have ego, I willingly admit it.
    HOWEVER; and it's fkn HUGE however, I do NOT feel the need to shout it from the rooftops at every given opportunity. I am content to get on with what I am doing, and let that speak for itself. I'm not self employed, so I do understand there has to be a certain amount of 'self promotion' to sell books, music, art, whatever and wherever it is your 'talent' lies.
    I didn't get to be this good by running my mouth off at anyone who would listen. I got here by hard work. To me, there's a time and a place to let your ego run riot.
    Part of the problem I see in publishing (and I speak as a reader here), is there's an awful lot of pumped up ego - and not a whole lot of real talent to back it up. Everyone is under pressure to make money, hence why for every decent book that's written, by an author who has carefully honed their craft, there's a ton of utter drivel written and ultimately published on very similar themes. I am disappointed that these days, the publishing world IS driven by the publishers, and NOT the readers, or authors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by, Lisa. Have to agree with your very well made points, as well. As you've said, part of the business is promotion, but you don't have to shove your ego and arrogance down people's throats to promote books, or anything else. It's tough for all authors to find an audience now, but that's due in many ways to the very type we're talking about - those who think they're owed their success simply because they want it. Time to grow up, I think - Life owes you no more than you're willing to give back to it - and if all you have to offer is your certainty of your own grand talent, then I wish you well.

      As you noted, it's time for the business to start catering to the real reading public, and the writers who work and know their jobs - not to the egos and pressures of those who want to fast-track their success because they're so certain of their own brilliance.

      Delete
  10. The one thing I have learned and continue to learn is how to be open minded and to welcome criticism. Of course with this you must know what you want and not just mold yourself to please everyone. It's not easy and I think when you have someone on your side to encourage and/or guide you is a precious gift and must be cherished. Denyse, you are very much appreciated by many who you have given a helping hand, I know this. I know sometimes it doesn't work out the way you would think but you really are a special person and I for one am blessed you are a part of my life. You always put things out there on the table like this. I am not an ego person at all. I believe in the end, no matter what type of artistic ability you have if you allow your ego to take over it will take something from you, whether its your reputation or even the art itself. Well there is my two cents as a fan and I guess a writer except I just love stories, not really planning on publishing anything but never say never, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jennifer. Beautifully said, and as always my dear friend, very well thought out and compassionate. We don't always see when we're being used, until it's forced on us, I try hard to allow that to tarnish my desire to help anyone who is honestly looking for a genuine and real connection. I love people and if I can help, it's my instinct to do it. I hope that never changes. Jen, you have been a blessing to me since the day we met, and I know it will always be that way. You are generous, genuine, and loving. And yes, never say never... the world is filled with possibilities that change each minute.... *hugs*

      Delete

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.