Sunday, April 22, 2012

Orla's Code Update

Imagine my excitement on hearing from a publisher who liked my synopsis and was interested in reading my manuscript! Well, you'd be wrong. I was not excited at all. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, telling me all was not as it seemed. This is because I had heard back from them the day after my submission, congratulating me on "taking initiative" and promising to help with whatever my goal. You can see the stance they're taking here. And I only have one problem with it. If you're offering support to people who want to self-publish, then just say that. If you want to charge them $1000, as I subsequently learned, in order to "share the financial risk" then allude to it on your website, if you think it's such a great idea. A week after submitting my MS I received another email of congratulations and I knew the nature of the publishing contracts "tailored for me" before reading them. But there was one sentence I found more alarming than the email pick-pocketing that was going on. It was this: "In your case, we believe that what you have submitted to us shows promise specifically but only in terms of commercial sales potential. We do not critique submissions for any other opinion or determination." What in the world does that mean? In grappling to understand I interpret it to mean: "We do not stand over quality". And this alarms me because I then make the leap to shit-peddlers. Is this why self-publishing has a bad name? Because some companies will take your money and publish your work no matter what the standard? This gets me all riled up because it reminds me of the Dark Lords who bring us marketed pop music. Don't even get me started... Part of this deal was that if I made 1000 book sales I would get my money back. But where is the incentive for them to help with book sales? The answer is, there isn't any. They win either way. But self-publishing doesn't have to be like that. There do appear to be self-publishing houses that will work with you to improve the quality of your MS before publishing it. And there's always print-on-demand which gives you greater control and doesn't cost all your savings up front. Well, maybe, as an international company, their marketing clout would have provided essential support but it's the shady way they went about revealing their intentions, hidden beneath this motivational marketing speak that meant, no matter what they had to offer they were never going to be my type.

Other than that, in my quest to find an audience for Orla's Code, I fill out agency submission forms trying to figure out if I've written a novel or a novella. Depending on what website you visit, a novel can start at 40,000 words, 50,000 words or 70,000 words. If we take content rather than length as a measure, I would say a novel reveals itself completely; telling all the stories that contribute to the main story. A novella tells a self-contained story. So, in a way they are opposite things and I have written a novella. And then there's the genre. It's funny that in a lot of industries, thinking "outside the box" is a good thing. In writing - one of the most creative professions - we're encouraged to fit inside the box. Well, I'm a cirangle. Yes, I just made it up. There isn't a box for me. My story is through the eyes of a woman but most of the characters are men. It's about the emotional landslide that takes someone when they feel persecuted but it's set in a highly technical world. It's fiction but the roots of most things are real. Incidentally, doesn't this sound like the perfect pocket-read for your commute? It's understandable though that outside the box falls through the cracks. No publisher is looking to publish random work. They have a relationship with their readership. They build a name through consistency. Like Starbucks, you know what you're getting. This is how any business works. It's how sales work. Hell, even if you look up tips on blogging, you'll be told that's how blogging works - consistency. This is also why we have independent movies, alternative music, the word indie and Mr. Frothy. Which begs a question:

Why is it that indie-music/movies are cool but self-publishing has a bad name? It's like the former is considered a noble act and the latter is dismissed as vanity! My initial thought is it's because self-publishing is just so easy. But, it wasn't always as easy as it is now. And anyway, it's never easy to write a book! So, here are some multiple choice suggestions: (fun, right?)

A) Indie music/movies are usually a collaboration so it means a few people have to think it's great before it goes anywhere.
B) Indie music/movies actually cost quite a lot of money. Kevin Smith's Clerks cost $27,575. I think we'd all think twice about publishing our memoir for that.
C) Self-publishing is relatively new and we need a few more talented authors to make it through before it really starts to establish itself.
D) The aforementioned companies that are willing to publish anything.
E) None of the above. Suggestions please?

I'm also taking suggestions on genre...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Performance Poetry Night 2

If I have strange dreams over the next few days involving dark figures shouting 'Terrorism' or a Goth trying to cleanse me with an industrial vacuum cleaner or a man trying to unlock the secrets of a Cornish pasty, telepathically, possibly using the vibration of sound, I'll have to blame RichMix's avant-garde evening Maintenant Camarade Poetry.

Maybe I'm not equipped to comment on last night's performances. But I do have a question. Does avant-garde mean by definition these days, introspective art? Not art for the sake of art but art for the sake of the artist? And is what used to be avant-garde now considered alternative - in a more liberal age? I think experiment in sound/art is interesting if it is part of something, a progression that leads to a new form of expression. My personal preference is art that wants to say something rather than art that just wants to shock. But I enjoyed last night. It's fun not knowing what's going to happen next.

Before the performances there was an exhibition of visual poetry. I thought this one was cool. It's by Stephen Nelson. I've just found his website Afterlights with more of his work.