Friday, August 15, 2014

ART & SOUL

 I want to be upfront: I borrowed that headline. I saw it in the Los Angeles Times this morning and it started me thinking about how we, as writers, view ourselves. Actually, that's not quite correct. I've been thinking about this ever since I joined a discussion on LinkedIn. It went something like this.

Author #1:How do you decide on your novel titles?
Author #2: I like to use lots of words.
Author #3: I like titles that keep people guessing.
Author #4: I hate publishers. They always change my titles.
Author #5: Publishers have no soul. They aren't creative.
Me: I disagree. Publishers are creative in a different way, a business way. We should appreciate that and learn from it.

So, while we write, immersing ourselves in our fictional character's lives and worlds, we are being artistic and creative. When we come up for air, we need to be something else. We need to be publishers: clear-eyed, objective, and strategic.

If it weren't for traditional publishers taking a chance on me, investing in my art, offering me a platform for the work of my soul, I wouldn't have grown as a writer. I still have every rejection and acceptance letter I ever received because reading them reminds me of why I failed as much as why I succeeded. I still can visualize every editorial letter that came in the mail (after 28 books, that's a lot of letters). They outlined where I could do better: style, grammar, character development, transitional efforts, titles, plot and story. I still remember meetings with sales reps, buyers, distributors and realizing that at every level there was effort and money being spent on my behalf in ways that were corporately creative. I also know that the administrators did the research I could never do regarding an ever-changing marketplace.  Sure there were inequities.  Sure there were things I didn't agree with but my interaction with the publishers, more than any writing lesson, taught me the true art of bringing my work to an audience.

Now that I'm indie, I wear a publisher's hat. I can hire a freelance editor, a cover designer, and a formatter. I can even hire marketing experts to handle the last, critical part of the publishing puzzle. But if I do not understand and appreciate the creativity of the input they provide me -  a title that will cut through the ever-growing clutter, a cover image that is arresting even though it appears as a thumbnail, interesting ways to communicate with the marketplace -  then my money is wasted. I will never be able to truly control my own brand. 


When your book is finished and it's time to publish, take off the rose colored glasses of an author and get out your publisher's magnifying glass to assess the marketability of your work. Ask yourself "what would a publisher do?" I promise, if you answer that question honestly you will find avenues for success you never dreamed. In my book, that last step qualifies as creativity. That is the Art & Soul of  the business of publishing.