Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disinformation and Publishing

Yes, that's "Disinformation and Publishing", not or. First, let's define some terms in Carradee-speak, so we're on the same page.

disinformation: false information intended to mislead
propaganda: biased information intended to mislead
misinformation: false information

Name a topic, and you can find misinformation about it, which some people use as disinformation. In my opinion, someone who spreads misinformation is only spreading disinformation if they know full well that the information is false.

So. An author writes a novel and intentionally posits it as a memoir? Disinformation.

An author who thinks that their Amazon ranking of #500,000 refers to how many copies have sold? Misinformation. (For the record, I've not seen anyone claim this, but I've heard it happens.)

For a non-publishing example, at my most recent surgery, I told the surgeon point blank "Do not give me Lortab; I'm allergic to Lortab due to the Tylenol in it, but I'm fine with hydrocodone."—an attending nurse even reminded him when he wrote the order—and what did I get?


And after that ensued other screw-ups, like me being ignored when I pointed to my surgery cut and said "Doesn't this look infected?" (It was.) But I know another nurse who's worked with that surgeon, and according to her, he does a fantastic job in surgery. Do I think she's lying or even spreading disinformation when she says that? No. Maybe the guy's a whiz in surgery but absentminded otherwise. Maybe he was distracted because his mother was dying. (Not saying that his mother was dying—the point is, I don't know.)

But in publishing discussions, particularly of late, I've been seeing some folks be downright dismissive of those on the other side of the fence, saying they're unreliable, untrustworthy, spouting nonsense, etc.

That dismissive attitude worries me.

When you have a strong opinion, it's easy to think that anyone and everyone with the opposing opinion, spouting examples from their own experience that you've never yourself experienced, is spreading disinformation.

Yes, your experience might be vast, but does that really mean that someone else (who might also have a ton of experience in the industry) is unreliable because their experiences differ from yours?

When your experience is vast or long in an industry—or even a hobby—it's easy to get defensive. You don't realize things are changing, or implications of things you are seeing. You don't want to. You may not even be able to see what's happening, because that takes an ability to innovate, to see beyond the framework that currently defines your industry or hobby. (ETA: It's also easy to see changes and leap on them and go all doomsday.)

The last day job I had was for a few months in retail. I noticed that sales were remarkably slow. I wondered if sales were slower than usual—because from my extremely rough estimates of how much we were earning versus probable expenses, they couldn't afford to keep me. I noticed that a good week or two before I got laid off.

That isn't the first time I've noticed warning signs, either, though I usually can't tell you what, exactly, cued me in.

I don't think I'm particularly observant. Seriously, I tend to not notice that a bookcase is dusty unless I stop and think to check. But I'm willing to see things I don't want to acknowledge.

I have several in-person friends who read voraciously. None had heard of Amanda Hocking before I told them about her. Only two of them have ever read an e-book that I'm aware of (other than mine). None have e-readers. Yes, this is an entirely non-scientific sampling, but it's my experience. (It tells me that anybody who only e-publishes is missing out on a probably sizeable percent of the market.)

I've seen short story markets with contracts that end up taking more rights than a casual reader might realize. (Which makes me pay attention when certain bloggers give alerts about particular clauses they're finding in novel contracts—and I do mean more bloggers than Kristine Kathryn Rusch.)

I've seen the claims that a favorite author's novels aren't selling, when I've encountered many, many readers who tell me the books are exactly what they want to read—but they never knew about them because the publisher marketed the books as the wrong genre. (Which tells me that publishers' marketing methods don't suit certain types of stories.)

I've seen agents express confusion over how publishing clients' backlists for them with a 50/50 split could be a conflict of interest. (Which tells me those particular agents are either liars or not very business savvy, which gives me concern for the authors relying on those agents for business advice.)

Yes, I'm young. Yes, I'm a self-published author. I'm sure some readers will take those details as justifications to dismiss my point.

But I've been a freelancer for longer than you probably expect, if you know my age. I've been a proofreader/copyeditor for a newsletter company (which closed, by the way), which reinforced what I already knew about the workload publishers handle in editing, copyediting, proofreading, layout, graphics, customer satisfaction, etc.

I have my own experiences, just like the rest of you. My specific experiences differ from yours, and the conclusions I've drawn may differ from yours. My conclusions even draw on more experiences than my own. (Do you really need to personally see what would happen if you added cream to sweet tea with lemon, or can you trust my experience when I say the cream will curdle? …I'd forgotten I'd put lemon in the tea, okay?)

That difference in experience does not make either of our viewpoints disinformation. Propaganda, maybe, if we're claiming our experiences match everyone's, but not disinformation.

Can we stop the dismissive attitude, folks? Because if we keep the "So-and-so's experience is illegitimate" mindset, I have a feeling the real nastiness is yet to come.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Negativity: Only Hurts You

Roni Lauren had a post today on writers judging other writers.

I once was one of those kids who complained about her little brother all the time. I decided as a teenager that, whenever I caught myself complaining, I'd force myself to say something good about him. I'd noticed even then that people notice and remember negatives better than positives.

It was hard. At first, I actually had to pause the conversation while I searched for something nice to say. I'd come up with things like "He can be helpful, sometimes, when he isn't more interested in teasing me." But the more I forced myself to practice this, the easier it became, and the more good things I noticed about my brother, and the less often I found myself complaining about him.

Over the years, other things have popped up that I've caught myself complaining about, though my friends are usually the ones who get those earfuls, and evidently I must be an interesting ranter or something because they actually encourage me and say I have reason for venting when I realize what I'm doing and apologize.

Negatives are easier to see than positives, unless you're biased towards a work (Ooo! UF w/ unreliable narrator!), in which case it can be easy to skip the negatives. My friends know that they'd better have time if they ask me about a story, because I often discuss a book or series for a half hour or more, naming specific good and bad things about them.

Take Stephenie Meyer. I actually respect her. Did I find her Twilight series incredibly melodramatic? Yep. But I read it through a veil of irony and thereby enjoyed it. After reading book 1 and the excerpt of book 2, I remember thinking: "Edward's personality so far would make him leave Bella to keep her safe, but that would make readers mad. I wonder what she'll do instead."

Upon reading book 2, I was actually shocked that she followed Edward's personality to the logical conclusion. Stephenie Meyer wrote precisely the story she wanted to tell, even when she knew some readers would be unhappy with her. (Breaking Dawn's anti-climactic climax, for example.)

Look, there are reasons for the bestseller lists. Okay, maybe author ABC is clichéd, and ZXY's sentence structure does resemble an academic paper [speaking of which, US or UK? Academic papers have different standards and appropriate writing styles between countries]. But instead of ranting and raving about why you can't get published when you have "perfect" grammar and sentence structure [yeah, 'cause that's possible], evaluate what those bestsellers are doing right.

Because they are doing something right. Otherwise, nobody would be wanting to read what they're selling.

Focus on those somethings. You might actually learn something that helps you write better.

Besides, do you really want to insult potential fans by dissing their favorite books?

What are your thoughts?


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