Sunday, February 19, 2012

What I learned about reviews and publishing

Ring and Run! (tongue out):

Interesting observation to my last blog entry on my other blog (BabesinBookland) (which had nothing to do with a particular book but since someone brought it up, so let’s chat).   It brings up a serious misconception by the reading public.   Here’s what Anonymous wrote:

P. 81 of Knock "em Dead" was "When Harry Met Sally" for the deli fake thrill for Meg Ryan. (PS..I'm a professional proof reader...can't help it.):)
Sunday, January 21, 2012 @ 7:37 PM

Let’s dispatch the ring-and-run aspect of hiding behind “Anonymous” when posting, writing, commenting, reviewing, etc.  If I have something to say,  I sign my name.  

On to the misconception:

Unless you are vanity pressed, subsidiary pressed, or writing for some of the e-publishers, authors don’t typeset our own books nor are the authors the last people to see the manuscript prior to going to press.  (Tangent - we are equally impotent when it comes to cover art, back cover copy, etc.)  Just to satisfy myself, I went back to my page proofs for KNOCK EM DEAD and I did catch the error and corrected it.  Somewhere between me, my editor, the copy editor, the line editor and the typesetting, the correction failed to make it into the book.  Personally, stuff like a doesn’t bother me since most books have some version of a mistake or error. 

I don’t know when I found peace with the lack of perfection.  Somewhere during these past 20 years, I guess I just learned that weather and the final product that is my book are but two of the things over which I have zero control.   (Oh wait, at least 3 things - my daughter’s emerging hormones.  She’s getting to the point where I’m half expecting her head to spin around while she hurls pea soup.)

I also have no problem owning my mistakes.  In BEDSIDE MANNER, I wrote this line of dialogue:

“Your staying put.”

And just as an FYI, I do know my homonyms, it was a mistake.  Spell check obviously didn’t catch it.  I didn’t catch it when I read the manuscript prior to sending it to my editor.  My editor didn’t catch it.  I didn’t catch it in the galley stage.  The proof reader didn’t catch it.  The typesetter didn’t catch it.  The book went to press with that mistake.

There’s a famous story about a famous author – deceased now.  He did a huge launch at a bookstore that opened at midnight a week early to satisfy his devoted fans in the town where the book was set.  The store sold out in a matter of hours.  The store owner went home (exhausted) with the copy she’d set aside for herself.  She settled in and began reading only to discover that after page 75, the book began again on page 1.   She skipped to the next 75 pages and realized the book went back to page 1 before beginning again.   She went to sleep that night haunted by the expectation that her store would be inundated with returns the next day.

I seriously doubt that the author, the editor or the publisher intended to ship a book with that kind of error.  Since famous was so famous, the publishing house retypset the book and when it was ‘officially’ released (called the lay down date), all was right with the world.

Just as an aside, only 3 of the misprint books were returned to the bookstore with the midnight preview launch. 

Lots of things can happen to a manuscript/book along the way.  I had one in a train wreck that resulted in the book failing to reach bookstores west of the Mississippi.  There are cover horror stories - people with three hands, etc. I have a book where my name is misspelled in the author bio.  And I’m quite sure that in each and every one of my 30+ books, there is some sort of error - a dangling participle?  A misplaced modifier?  A typo?  A factual mistake? A change in hair/eye color?  And one I know happens a lot of the time - the appearing, disappearing bandage.   I should probably avoid injuring my characters, that would take care of the magic bandages.  I’ve had copy editors who’ve changed something based on their own misconception - most recently it was an issue regarding DNA.  She’d watched enough CSI to think that DNA results come back within 48 minutes.  Um, no.  Did it end up in the book even though I did a STET in the page proofs?  Um, yes.  Did I let it go.  Definitely yes.

So for me, the bottom line is the gifts I was given by the very talented Cherry Adair and Leanne Banks.   Cherry always reminds me that there is no reason to criticize another author’s cover, typo, artwork, and/or all of the things the author has zero control of, especially something in a book that has hit the shelves.  By that point, there is nothing the author can do.  It’s like being out of town and putting on your cocktail dress, only to have someone tell you how horrible you look.  If you were at home, you could go up and change.  If you’re in a hotel, you’re stuck wearing that dress because you have no other options and every time you see your reflection, you feel horrible all over again.  Well, that’s what it feels like when someone decides to offer a critique after a book is in print.  (Please don’t confuse that with a person’s 1st Amendment right to hate the book and say so.  I have no problem with that!!!)  Leanne often reminds me that offering affirmation is the best gift we can give each other as writers.  It’s a lonely, difficult job with lots and lots of rejection. 360 days of the year, someone teasing me about a typo won’t bother me, in fact, I’ll laugh right along with you!  But there are those 5-6 days when even the smallest slight will push me over the edge and make me all girly and tearful. 

BYW, Anonymous, your comment didn’t push me over the edge and this is in no way meant to be personal to you - I like that you brought up this issue.  I often forget that there’s a world out there and it takes us all time to learn the realities and nuances of the business side of publishing.

These are some of the new things I’ve learned since my first hardcover was released and I wandered away from the Harlequin auto-sale system (which I love, btw):

1. Real estate - this is when the publisher pays for front of store or end cap placement of your book;
2. A barge is one of those circular or round aisle displays;
3. Publisher’s Weekly matters;
4. Kirkus matters because hardcovers are library staples;
5. The print runs on most hardcovers has gotten smaller due to technology that allows the publishers to do additional printings quite easily - translation, print run doesn’t matter as much as it used to;
6. Pre-orders matter and publishers now pay attention to Amazon pre-orders.

I have tons more to learn.  But I do know one thing with absolute certainty - if I could write a book that appealed to every person out there, I’d be a very wealthy woman. 

Happy Writing!

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