Monday, November 19, 2007

The Real Authors

I was a reader long before I was an author. The first book I can actually remember reading was a hardback copy of Black Beauty that featured a few illustrations, just like my fancy, modern edition of The Da Vinci Code. A few Tarzan hardcovers and a bunch of Fran Striker's Lone Ranger books, also hardcovers, became my next favorites. Although The Hardy Boys didn't ring my bell like Tarzan and The Lone Ranger, I did join them on a few of their adventures, too. I certainly wish I still had those antique editions on my bookshelf!

Certainly most of us were avid readers long before we became authors. We wrote primitve, unpolished and unpublished versions of our later books, too, honing our craft sometimes over decades. That's actually what it took to see my first and third books in print: decades. I knew a long time ago that my work would most likely never see mainstream daylight. Like most of my favorite rock bands, my books are difficult to classify. As Clu Gallagher says in one of my favorite difficult to classify movies, Into the Night, my books would fall into the or what category. I have always admired heroes, icons, and entertainers who can think and operate outside the box. What the hell is Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, anyway? Who reads Michael Moore and Pat Buchanan and likes them both? Could it be each of them has valid points to make? Who wants to go back in time with Lestat? Who thinks Robert Rimmer had at least a few good ideas? The best books, and the best writers, have always broken the mold.

Let me get one bit of unpleasantness out of the way. We authors who are considered unreal by many who claim to know everything must, at the very least, offer our products in a manner that is indistinguishable from the products of real authors. Most of all that means we must edit and proofread our work. Unlike all those great, real authors, we must do the job ourselves, or at least pay someone else to do it. We must take grammar and punctuation seriously or they will never take us seriously. We cannot be enamored of ellipses as if they were love bites, and if we do love them to death, we must at least use and punctuate them in the correct manner. We must not be afraid to use commas wherever they are necessary to make the meanings of our sentences crystal clear to our readers. Ya'll ought to know by now that if I have to back up and re-read a sentence in order to perceive its correct meaning just because you thought it stylish to leave out that significant comma, then you can expect a demerit for the omission. If you really must ellipses your readers to death, then I insist that you add a period at the end of what surely must have been intended as a sentence. If one of your country-hick-sleazebucket characters is speaking incorrectly, that's one thing, but if you mix up your adjectives with your adverbs within text outside the dialog, that means a minus point for you. Clean up your acts, people. If you want respect, you have to earn it.

Books are sold because of the stated title, subtitle, and subject matter. Manuscripts are purchased by the big guys simply because the big guys think they can sell lots of copies. As I have stated many times before, that was then and this is now. Authors who attempted to begin writing careers even five years ago had it better. The beginners of ten years ago had it even better than that. Most of the great successful authors of today released their first book back in The Sixties, or maybe The Seventies. Before there was POD, there were many thousands less books on the market looking for readers. Before there was Amazon, B&N ruled the world. Before there was George Bush, many youngsters grew up wanting to be readers. You get the picture.

We are all squirrels looking for a nut. Or we are all nuts looking for squirrels. Sometimes I'm not so sure which we are. Have I expanded my horizons by reading the iU books I have reviewed? Absolutely. Are many of these books by real authors? Absolutely. Are some of them by not so real authors? I'm afraid so. Let's keep on trying to separate the nuts from the squirrels.

1 comment:

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

To me, ISBN and marketing are where the line should be drawn in terms of expectations. If someone has bought an ISBN, put their book on Amazon and is trying to get a local library or bookstore to put it on a shelf, it had darn well better be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

But I know a lot of people who have gone POD or plan to so with their "fun" projects that were never intended to be in competition with traditionally published books. My own book started out this way and I'm only just now starting to explore what else I can do with it.

Most people seem to make their book available and more or less forget about it. Maybe they chat it up with friends and family. No harm done if it's not perfect because in the great sea of POD books out there, it's unlikely a random stranger will stumble across it, buy it and form an opinion of the entire POD industry based on that one book. It was printed for the author, Aunt Mary and maybe a friend or two. Big deal.

The real glory of POD is that it can be many things to many people, and I'd hate to lose that, since it's what sets POD apart from traditional publishing.

Perhaps there should be a more obvious way of telling the difference between "book for fun" and "book for real" than just ISBN. A writer certainly understands the difference, but your average reader might not.

As for me, I've recently uploaded edit #8 and Santa has promised me an ISBN if I'm "practically perfect in every way" by Christmas! :-)