On Wednesday of last week, Annette Dashofey wrote a really good piece on critique groups. I made a remark in the post pointing out that I am a “BRUTAL” critquer. Okay, Critiquer is not a word, but that isn’t relevant. One of our readers took a bit of offense to my term and called me on it. I deserved it.
This proves a point. As a writer, we need to realize that every word we write has to be chosen with care, whether it’s an adjective in an epic novel or a coy little term in a blog post. We have to be responsible for what we write. In my case, I took the term “brutally honest” and changed it to “brutal” and the meaning was lost. In other words, I was critiqued.
With all that said, I’d like to delve into the business of writing. Let me be clear. It is my opinion that once a writer decides that he/she wants to seek publication, that writer has crossed a very serious line. That line divides hobby from business. Like Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” let’s take a look at that monumental leap into the business world.
I’ve been a businessman all my life. I just entered into the business of writing recently. For my day job I manage the global environmental program for a large corporation. Every decision I make has to be made with the business in mind. I don’t spend a dime or commit any resources unless there is a very tangible return. Yes, simply put, it’s all about money. While money may be the farthest thing from your mind while you’re pouring out your emotions on paper, if you eventually wish that paper be published, it becomes, all about money.
Let’s face it, agents and publishers aren’t there to merely fulfill our dreams, they are in it for money. When an agent signs you, that agent invests significant time and a small amount of money (paper, ink, postage and maybe a lunch or two) in you. They expect a return. It IS their livelihood after all. If you’re not serious about making money with your writing, why on earth would they want to partner with you?
The publisher, on the other hand, invests a serious amount of both time and money in you. If they don’t see a return on their investment, not only will you be dropped by them, you may have a difficult time in the future.
I recently signed a contract with Echelon Press Publishing for a short story called SINFULLY DELICIOUS. I met the owner, Karen Syed at Bouchercon last year in Indianapolis. Karen is the consummate businesswoman. We sat in a quiet corner and chatted for about an hour. What I took away from that conversation is that she was serious about the business. She wanted her business to succeed and in order to do that, her authors had to succeed. She warned me up front that she could be tenacious about pushing her authors to promote their work. I like that.
By the way, SINFULLY DELICIOUS is in production and will be available in electronic format in the near future.
Let me digress for a moment. Many years ago when I was in negotiations over the sale of my first home, I was told by my Real Estate Agent that they were working for me… they were on MY side. BULLSHIT! That Real Estate Agent was working for himself. If the sale had fallen apart, he made no money. (Sorry Jennie) Now there’s nothing wrong with that agent wanting that sale to go through. It’s business. I get it. I just hate being lied to.
So, why the hell am I rambling about this? Well it all goes back to Annette’s blog about critique groups and my “BRUTAL(ly honest)” statement. I made a leap of faith that if you were serious enough about your writing to join a critique group, then you had already crossed that proverbial line into the business of writing or had at least wandered over the line inadvertently. If you were launching yourself into a music career, who would you seek advice from?
Simon may lack tact, whether by personality or by design, but he is normally spot-on in his critiques on American Idol. On the other hand, Paula never wants to hurt anybody’s feelings, but she rarely offered useful advice.
If you’re in a critique group, let your members know that it’s okay to say what’s on their mind. Let them know you really want to make your writing better, more compelling. Take it upon yourself to open the door to better writing.