From authors, I mean. How much do you want authors to say about the trials and tribulations of writing and publication?
I’m actually not 100% sure this fits under the heading of “WTF Wednesday” quite as well as some of my other posts, but it’s something I’ve been wondering about lately, especially with some of these recent happenings in the writerly world:
- Delilah Marvelle, whose publisher dropped her after two books, started a contest to encourage readers to buy her second book–out this month–in hopes of finding another publisher to finish out the series.
- Cheryl Holt revealed on a reader forum that, after changing publishers, she’d had significant disputes with her new editor (who basically told her she didn’t know how to write) and ultimately had her contract dropped. She’s since picked up a new contract with a different publisher.
- After initially expressing enthusiasm for the cover of her upcoming book, Justine Larbalestier admitted that she fought with her publisher over it but was ultimately overruled because the publisher apparently felt the face of a white girl would sell better even though the book is about a black girl.
These three things probably don’t seem to have much similarity to one another (the last one, in particular, evoked a real firestorm that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I’m talking about), but to me they share a common thread and that is that the author is revealing details about a dispute with her publisher. Whether that dispute is over a contract offer (or lack of one), editorial disputes, or dissension over cover art, it all comes down to authors telling us, on some level, how little control they have over the this big, complicated business we call publishing.
On some level, I’ll admit that I love to read this stuff because it makes some of my own frustrations seem less isolated and lonely. I mean, if even a New York Times bestselling author like Cheryl Holt can run into problems in publishing, it’s no great surprise that newbies like me would hit speedbumps in the road.
But on the other hand, these appeals and stories can cross they line between honesty and self-pity. I’m not saying any of these particular instances has that feel to me, but I can see how they might to others. And I wonder, in the final analysis, whether it does the author more harm than good to air her dirty laundry like this. It’s one thing to explain to readers that you are currently without a contract or that previously contracted books were ultimately shelved, but to get into the nitty-gritty of the whys and wherefores…I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Mightn’t readers think less of a writer who admits to being “down on her luck?”
At the same time, I think there’s a culture of secrecy in the publishing industry, one that discourages authors from being honest about the kinds of problems they encounter, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing, either. Surely though, more transparency in this business is better, not worse (and it’s one of the reasons I tend to post about the mechanics of publishing on a regular basis; because I think having a better understanding of how the industry works is a good thing, not a bad one).
So, what’s your take? Do readers really want to hear this stuff, or do they just want books? Do you ever think less (or more) of an author for revealing the “dirty secrets” of her experiences in publishing?