Writing: It’s a business

These days, publishing a book is easy. Pretty much anyone can do it. The problem is relatively few people can do it well. There are plenty of good indie books out there, but there are many more bad ones. I’m not even talking about the quality of writing. I’m talking about everything else.

Recently, I decided I was going to go indie with one of my books, Shadowguard. There are a couple of reasons for this that I may go into that in a future post. This post isn’t about why so much as it’s about how. I decided I needed it done within two months, largely to give me time to finish it. The first draft is already done, and I expect the next couple of weeks to happen in a frenzy. There are still several other things that need to get done. There are two that are the most important. The first is cover art. Too many people skimp on this. First of all, the design of book covers (where the text goes, the font of the title, it’s appearance as a thumbnail, the width of the spine, and other factors I have no idea about) is a skill all its own quite separate from just creating the picture. You can’t just take a picture that you think looks nice, slap a title on it, and expect it to look good. If you do, you might get lucky, but odds are you won’t. There’s a lot that goes into it, so I hired a professional, a writer/artist I know named Holly Heisey (http://hollyheisey.com/cover-design/). She proceeded to send me a questionnaire asking things I would’ve never even thought to consider. It wasn’t just what is a good scene from the book. It’s what is the genre? What is the age group? What colors should be featured? What colors should be excluded. What is the physical size of the book?

Then, there is the editing. A lot of people don’t understand what editing is. They confuse editing with proofreading. That’s not what it is at all. As an author, I know what I was trying to say. I know what’s happening in the background. It all makes perfect sense to me. It may not make sense to the reader. There may be scenes that I love that are completely unnecessary. Maybe I’m putting too much emphasize on the world and not enough on the character? Maybe it’s the other way around. How about the fact that I never once give any physical details about my main character? Everyone is drawn to different parts of the story. I love dialog and the emotional response a character gets to a situation, but physical descriptions? I often forget about them. I’ll give you an example of this. I love the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. One of the central cities is Tar Valon. Tar Valon is described quite a bit, but beyond that it has a big white tower in it, I couldn’t describe it. Do you know what sticks in my mind? One character, when meeting others who are seeing the city for the first time says, “Fair takes the breath at first sight. At tenth sight, for that. And at hundredth.” To me, that says all you need to know, but for every reader like me, there is another who craves the description. My writing tends to be the same way: focusing on the emotion, and not the perception, but if I do that, I’ve lost half my audience. I’ve gotten better about that over the years, and if it’s pointed out, I can fix it. That’s the key. A good editor will point out what’s not working, but not tell you how to fix it. They’re not the author. They will also tell you what is working well, so you don’t change it in an attempt to fix something else.

Neither editing, nor a good cover are cheap services. Those are the biggest, though not the only problems I need to deal with in the coming weeks. The important thing to remember is that writing is a business and should be treated as such. You don’t get the absolute cheapest thing you can find, and you don’t take shortcuts if you want your product to be known for its quality. Find people who can do the jobs you need professionally. Don’t assume that because you were an English major, you know how to edit everything in every genre. Don’t think that because you’re pretty good with Photoshop you can design a good cover. I’m not saying those aren’t skills you can’t pick up (although you should never edit your own work), but if you’re actually going to do it yourself, realize that those are skills you need to pick up. It’s not something you can just wing. One time, a writer I knew was considering doing their own cover. I convinced them not to by saying, “You remember how bad your first attempted a novel was? That’s the quality of your cover.” They cringed and proceeded to hire a professional. Writing is a business. Treat it as such.

If you want to learn more about the business of writing, I highly recommend the Superstar Writing Seminar. Scholarships are available, and it’s an experience you won’t regret.


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