Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Pathways to publication redux

Not all that long ago I was an unpublished author. Now that I’m not, I get lots of questions about how to make that miraculous transition and earn the right to slash the prefix.

Here’s my first attempt at answering.

Having been asked again recently, I wondered if my late 2008 post had aged well. I reread it and there’s not much I’d change. But I would caution that publishing prospects are gloomier than they were two years ago.

How so?

Well, I know of several very talented writers, published, multi-published and unpublished, who have had rejections in recent times. I suspect that publishers are becoming ever more risk averse and, as a result, it’s also a tougher task to gain representation from a literary agent. Some of the major bookstore chains are in strife and less likely to buy as many books or as wide a range of titles. I’m talking globally, not just in Australia.

Then there’s the e-book phenomenon. My sense is that no one in the publishing industry really knows how profits will be affected by this trend or what the future of books looks like. Will printed books become collectors’ items, only published in small numbers where there’s proven demand for a title? Will there be an ocean of e-books, many of them self-published, where it becomes harder to find the pearls?

Articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal give little cause for optimism and suggest author incomes will be halved.

On the other hand, e-books could mean it’s easier to find, afford and read an author’s work.

So yes, the pathway to publication has veered somewhat in two years. That doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Strong, unique stories will find their way to publication. Success stories do happen (as any parent trying to find the latest Wimpy Kid book in time for Christmas would know).

If you’re none the wiser at this point, I’d recommend aspiring authors read Give Up Your Publishing Dream by noveldoctor. Why? Because you should be writing for yourself. First, foremost and forever.

Putting ideas into action

Here’s a good piece from Aussie author and blogger John Birmingham on how to plan and write a novel.

The prevailing wisdom is that a full time author will need the best part of a year to write and rewrite a novel.

For part-timers like me, it’s a matter of taking every free moment and guarding it like gold bullion. Game as Ned was completed in an empty room over some friends’ garage so I could sandbag away the distractions that come with small children, the Internet, email and sundry domestic demands. Five Parts Dead has been part-written in a web-free upstairs living room supplied by other generous friends who knew my study wasn’t as author-friendly as it should be.

Venues aside, it takes discipline and sweat to write a novel. It’s not easy. It can steal your sleep and sap your confidence. But when the muse is singing, it’s magical.

Here are some other novel writing tips, coming via the Wall Street Journal.

The dark side of YA fiction

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about YA fiction with the headline It was, like, all dark and stormy.

Just quietly, I’m rapt that a media outlet as big-time as the WSJ is covering YA fiction. I’m not sure I agree with the thrust of the article but its publication possibly suggests that YA won’t continue to be hidden at the back of bookstores like some adult no-go zone.

If you’re tempted to read the article, and it’s certainly worth a squiz, be warned it contains spoilers on the plots of several books. All the titles discussed have been released in the US for a while now, which is probably why the writer had no qualms about divulging story outcomes. Nonetheless, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Spoilers suck.

That caveat aside, the thesis of the article is basically that YA readers are turning to the dark side of life, voraciously consuming stories about topics such as suicide, mental illness, death, eating disorders and disaster.

My thoughts are that:
1. I don’t think this is a new trend. There are plenty of decades-old dark novels that would be retrospectively classified as YA fiction; and
2. The teen years can be dark anyway – a time of loneliness, change and altered awareness of the world.

I’ve posted previously on this latter point, informed by workshops I do with students and a secondary school short story competition I have judged for several years. As an author of YA fiction containing dark matter, I’d argue that young adults are watching and sharing the same world as the rest of us. Hopefully reading stories can help them comprehend and come to terms with a universe that no longer seems as shiny as it did during their early childhoods.