Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Burning Out of Control

Yesterday's The Millions blog had an excellent essay by children's author Gail Gauthier titled "Burned."

After publishing eight children's books through Putnam (including an American Library Association Notable), she was "let go."

Gail is remarkably honest about the mistakes she made. Among these were:

1) Publishing without an agent

2) Writing a book on spec, without her publisher's buy-in

I'd strongly recommend writers reading this post here.

The post also indirectly answered a question another writer asked me yesterday. She was trying to understand why an author would choose to self-publish. She complained that she knew several writers who had been traditionally published who then chose to self-publish because they wanted more "control." She could not understand that response.

When you are published by one of the Big Six, you make an implicit bargain to allow your publisher to okay your proposals for future books.. It can be incredibly frustrating to have a book in mind, but have your editor want to make major changes to your vision or to turn down your proposal altogether.

When I was writing my second book BAD BOY, my editor and I simply were not speaking the same language, and both of us were frustrated. She had the good sense to call my agent, who promptly called me. I explained that I did not understand what the editor was asking for. Jacky acted as interpreter, finding examples of what my editor was saying.

I mentioned my concern that I wasn't sure I could write the book my editor wanted. Jacky laughed and said, "You write the book YOU want. If Penguin doesn't like it, my job is to find a publisher who does."

Her easy confidence got me over what seemed to be an insurmountable hump, and I was able to finish the book without further problems.

I know several writers who, after writing four or five books, complained that the JOB of writing had destroyed their JOY in writing. One stopped writing altogether; the other is self-publishing.

Control can mean different things to different people.

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