A traditionally published author usually comes to editing through a publisher (although yes, they may have hired an editor to polish their original manuscript for submission). The editing process is provided for them – and forced on them, really; they might retain the right to refuse certain changes or resist editorial suggestions, but there’s no way they’re getting published by a traditional publishing house without being edited. Even if the manuscript is squeaky clean and the story engages every person who reads it, it will still go through the editing process.
By contrast, a self publisher could publish their first rough draft if they wanted to. If they don’t want to, if they want the services of a professional editor, they have to pay for those services. With traditional publishing all those editing costs (whether they’re in-house or outsourced to freelancers) and any delays resulting from this process are swallowed by the publishing house. For a self-publishing author those costs and delays are personal. A self-publishing author has to decide, at every step, whether they can afford to pay for another round of editing – and whether or not it is worth it to them, to their project, perhaps even to their writing career, to do so.
So I think self-publishing authors and traditionally publishing authors come to their editors with different values, ideals and requirements. I do get the impression most authors, once they have been through the editing process – no matter whether they self publish or go through a trade publisher – understand what an editor can bring to their work. All those queries and track changes and pencil marks have to be worth something, even if the authors don’t agree with any of them!
The shape of the scene has changed. The non-public side of it is quite different from the side that gets seen on awards nights or from the outside. It’s still burgeoning delightfully, but we’re beginning to set up gatekeepers and opinion makers, which worries me somewhat, as we also seem to be struggling to regain the complex and fascinating criticism that was the hallmark of the earlier industry. Many of those critics are still among us and doing good work, but they are read mainly within academia and not noticed by the wider community any more. Our awareness of our own history and of some of the best sources of interpretation and understanding among us is sadly low.
We’re affected enormously by changes in technology, but it hasn’t quite reached the stage where we find out what is going to go where and what the scene will look like. I find myself wanting to do diagrams and cultural analysis to see who goes where and what happens.
Victory without sacrifice feels cheap to me. If I read a book or see a film in which all that was required to beat the Big Bad Guy was a little sleight of hand or some sharp-shooting, I feel cheated. I want to be afraid for the characters I love. When I’m in a book or film, I want to know not everyone I love is going to make it out alive, or intact, because to my mind, that makes me love them more. And I’m not talking about pathos for pathos’ sake. I’m talking about the [redacted spoiler] in Serenity, or [spoiler redacted] by the slake moth in Perdido Street Station — that kind of thing. Characters feel more real and tangible and alive to me when I know they could be gone at any moment, because that’s what real life is like. Triumph means more when it’s purchased with the things heroes hold dear.
Being able to read your work in public is a great resource for a writer. They are the most difficult aspect of a work for the general public to ignore, or pirate. Readings can make a launch or signing into an event. Readings can be filmed and placed on YouTube. Plus, nothing displays the artistry of a piece, the flow of sentences and the aptness of words, like performance — assuming that the performer doesn’t freeze up and treat gripping prose like it’s a list of ingredients on a cereal box. The life is all there on the page, you simply have to release it out. Practice is the key: first getting used to the sound of your own voice and then learning how to control it. In my case, I can’t pretend that lengthy drama training didn’t help.
I have always been a genre fan having been inspired by not only the best writers of the 80s and 90s but by the amazing artists whose work adorned many a book cover. Artists such as Michael Whelan, George Underwood, Patrick Woodroffe, Bob Eggleton to name but a few. As I’m new in the field there isn’t much visual diaspora from me currently but that will change as time lurches forward.
The con was everything I had hoped, and much better than I expected. I had a fantastic crew working with me to make sure everything got off the ground. I set out to make it as woman-friendly as possible, which was not an easy task. As progressive as the SF community likes to think, it can still be just as sexist as the rest of the world. I benefited a lot from having people in the committee who shared my vision, so when I said I wanted to promote female work and female achievement no one questioned it. More than just supportive, the committee was actively trying to think of ways to make this happen.
There were a few moments that made me quite proud. Most of these moments weren’t inside the con itself, but part of the organisation of it. When the programme books came back from the printers complete with an Anti-Harassment Policy I was over the moon. Every time I had a woman tell me they were excited to be on a panel item I felt glee.
Definitely asexual teenagers who write thanking me for portraying an asexual character in Guardian of the Dead. But that also makes me really sad, because Kevin is not a main character, and may not even be a terribly good portrayal of an asexual person, and yet I get these emails saying “This is the only time I’ve ever read about someone like me in young adult fiction,” and that shouldn’t be true! There should be dozens, hundreds of acknowledged asexual characters in our cultural products, on account of asexuals exist.