Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Responses to YOUR responses

First, let me express my thanks again for the dialogue on this series on publishing. You've all made me think, challenged, me, and even made me laugh. I appreciate you!

In my last entry, I responded to about half of those who left comments on my 11/18 post. Here are my thoughts for the rest...

Mary Kay, I hear your frustration with editors and publishers being hesitant to take on a book dealing with deep issues, such as family violence or rape. I've turned some of those books down myself. But not for the reasons you may think. It's not because I, or my publisher, was afraid of the topic. It's that there wasn't anything, either in the treatment or voice, that presented the topic in a new or powerful way. If I'm going to put a book out there to help people facing such horrific things in their lives, I need to offer them something more than what's been said before. I'm not saying your books don't do that, I'm just saying there's a lot more that goes into deciding what we will and won't publish than sticking with the tried and true. I'll explore that more in a future post. You are right, though, that we all need to be talking about the books that have struck a chord within us. In fact, if any of you would like to list such books in the comment section, please do so.

Becky, I hear your concerns, but, to use your words, horrors if you think editors think that's what it's all about. I'm afraid my not taking the time to explain all of our conversation in the workshop gave you a wrong impression. The editors' comments on format weren't a mistaken direction at all. I specifically asked them what kinds of formats we need to use to reach new readers. We'd already discussed craft and content. Believe me, editors are deeply invested in both. And they spend a great deal of time evaluating the books that work and learning from them. They'd be foolish not to, and if there's one thing these folks aren't, it's foolish. The editors in Christian publishing are bright, passionate, and oftentimes just as frustrated as you are. I'm sorry if what I wrote in my blog gave you any other impression.

Kristi, I hear you, but publishing on the whole is faster, more demanding, and harder than ever before. You're right, you do have to earn back in 12 months; 18 at the most. None of us can afford the long-term scenario you posed, especially in light of the advances being demanded nowdays. And so few books earn back...ever. You'd be amazed how much money publishers have to write off EVERY YEAR from unearned advances. More on that later, too.

Jlo, I appreciate your thoughts. I have to say I wouldn't be willing to publish a book with the F-word in it. This is just my vote--and we all get one--but I don't believe there's any context in which that word or other violent obscenities can honor God. Even so, I respect your decision to keep it in. You're the author. The final call on content is yours. (Yes, you all can quote me on that!) And I respect a publishing house's decision to not acquire a book, whatever the reason. It's vitally important for publishers to hold fast to who they are, and for books to find the right fit in a publisher. There are a number of manuscripts I loved, but knew, for whatever reason, that the books wouldn't be a good fit for my house. So the best thing I could do for the author was to let the book go.

Jamie, wonderful illustration and reminder.
We can dialogue and brainstorm and wring our hands ad nauseum, and not accomplish a thing because we're trying to do it all ourselves. We've GOT to remember Who is in control, and do our best to serve Him in whatever role we have.Work hard, but rest in Him for the outcome.

Pammer, thank you, thank you for this: "as Christian publishers, we have to hold up to intense scrutiny. If we travel too closely to the world, why do we ask to be set apart? To be seen as separate or better? Because in a larger picture Christian fiction is still the new kid on the block and we are held to higher standards to prove ourselves." Absolutely right.

Marci, I could kiss you! Yes, yes, and yes. The retailers have a huge impact. They've been called the "gatekeepers" for a number of good reasons. Mostly, though, they are the ones in the trenches. They see, firsthand, the response of the readers. They hear the accolades; they bear the brunt of the angry reader slamming a book down on the counter and demanding an apology (and a refund). And with so many stores going under, the climate at Christian bookstores is, to
say the least, tense. So yes, retailers and publishers and authors all need to be working together to find ways to do this whole publishing and selling books better. But even as I write that, I know we've all been trying. And I know the limited funds for making change. So what's the answer? for a future post to address this very thing!

Colleen, absolutely. As Pammer said, as Christians we're held to a higher standard. Not by the readers or retailers, but by the One who assigned us this task, be it writing or publishing. Writers need to express the range of life--the depth of darkness and the heights of light--without using the easy outs of graphic language, sexuality, violence, or preachiness. Publishers need to operate wisely and honorably.

Crystal, excellent points! Especially about these issues sometimes putting publishers and writers at odds with readers. Which is why the responsibility rests so heavy on the editors' shoulders to KNOW those readers and communicate who they are and what they want in a way the others in the house can hear and receive. I studied multiple languages in college (French for 12 years, Spanish for 4, Russian for 1), but none of that prepared me for speaking Sales', Marketing's, and Finance's languages. That's somethine editors need to learn. Well. And I'd encourage writers to learn them as well.

(BTW, Crystal, my hubby is an ISTJ, so I DO know where you're comin' from. And while I'm mostly Golden Retriever, I do think I have a smidge of Siberian in me, so no. I won't keep chasing the ball. In fact, you throw it too much and I'll sit there, looking at you with that, "You
threw the ball. You want it, you go get it" expression I so often see in my Sibe's eyes.)

Again, wonderful comments all. Thank you so much for participating in this dialogue. You're helping me learn as we go, and I appreciate that a great deal. In fact, your thoughts and insights have convinced me to take this discussion back to my publishing house to see what they think of it all. So watch for thoughts from sales and marketing in my upcoming blog posts.

Peace to you all today.



Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Karen, thanks so much for taking the time to address all these comments.

We'd already discussed craft and content. Believe me, editors are deeply invested in both. And they spend a great deal of time evaluating the books that work. This heartens me a great deal.


Robin Caroll said...

Books that have recently struck a chord in me:
The Twilight series--because IMHO it's a young, clean love story. I was drawn in to the entire cast and feel invested in them.

Deception by Randy Alcorn--because it presented a spiritual subplot that's a bit different from my own personal views and had me flipping through my Bible to find Scripture in support of what was presented. Really had me thinking and discussing the spiritual aspect with family & friends and even our associate pastor.

Demon, A Memoir by Tosca Lee--I started this book and could NOT put it down until I'd completed it. She presented so much that I honestly hadn't even considered that had me thinking about God and heaven, talking about issues with everyone, and really spending some quiet time with my Father.