Tuesday, 19 August 2014

How times have changed...in the publishing world! From Daphne du Maurier to today.

Hi everyone!

I've been busy with the River City Writers Conference, (a few of you 'liked' some of the trillion facebook posts), a single day dedicated to writing workshops, networking, launching/buying books, chatting with editors and publishers...and eating and drinking and being merry!

Photo: Vaanguard Writers Group members @ River City Writers Conference. Thank you Raelene Purtill.
Members of Vannguard Writers Group @ the conference - 
Raelene, myself, Charmaine and Nas. 
(Nas is an honorary member of our Brisbane group)

We had some great presenters - Helene Young, pilot and author of a series of excellent romantic suspense single titles set in Queensland's wild, empty north where surveillance is key - Karen Tyrrell, author of 'resilience' books...2 adult (on overcoming mental illness) and 2 for children...one especially successful title Stop the Bully has gained her entree into schools and libraries - Antony Puttee, who runs an uber successful self-publishing one-stop-shop, Book Cover Cafe, who ran an awesome session on how to get your self-published book out there and how to get high Amazon sales - then our very own Nas Dean, helped me judge the flash fiction competition which ran in conjunction with the conference. Nas then presented her session on editing.

Nas Dean presenting on editing in the modern age

Nas' session on editing had some of the died-in-the-wool old-school publishing houses (who sent representatives to the conference to receive pitches from writers) screaming in frustration, claiming publishers did all the things the presenters had been claiming all day that writers did -- editing, promoting, book covers etc. This caused much merriment from those who had already told their story of the hard road of promotion even after being contracted to a publishing house. Obviously these guys have no idea how hard writers are doing it before submitting manuscripts in the faint hope of being picked up, and how little it is perceived that the traditional publishers do after buying rights to your book...(I'm no expert on this, having never submitted anything to an agent or publishing house!)


...Which brings me to some of the changes I see when comparing classic books to modern books. I read a lot of stories of how the old publishing houses used to treat favoured authors--the army of editors who went through the novel after submission, the pampering, the promotion etc. Don't many of us think these oldies were just pure genius? Well, it took a lot of help to polish that genius.

Today, many traditionally-published authors and self-published authors are doing it all/mostly by themselves, some by choice and some because they can't afford/don't see the need for even one editor. (My  opinion is everyone needs an editor, and most savvy readers can tell when this important step has been skipped). I've shared this before, but Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With the Wind) re-wrote her first chapter 60 times. So these oldies but goodies still did the hard yards themselves before they were touted as overnight/on-going successes.

Along with several other books, I'm currently reading Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek, (1941). (Well, it does have French... in the title). This book is a classic passionate romance/adventure, one of her most popular novels -- on the best-selling list for thirty years!! But the beautiful Lady Dona and her French pirate adventurer would have been severely edited today.

We modern writers get slapped on the wrist if we carelessly 'head hop' even once in our stories - du Maurier and plenty of her contemporaries did this as a matter of course, and even modern best-sellling author Nora Roberts, a great favourite of mine, does it A LOT, especially in her romances.

Dialogue has changed too. Now we go through our manuscripts with a magnifying glass trying to find/slay most, if not all, dialogue tags, turning them into actions instead.

"Don't touch that!" Jack said to Kiddly Bop. ... becomes...
Jack ran across the room. "Don't touch that!" Kiddly Bop snatched his hand away from the grinding machine just before his arm was lopped off.
(I used the exclamation mark to upset all the 'no exclamation marks' modern rule!! as I think it is quite probable that Jack yelled in this situation.) 

But on p.62 of Frenchman's Creek I found this dialogue...exactly reproduced:
  'William, you are a genius,' she [Lady Dona] said, and he bowed, permitting himself a smile. 'I am pleased you are glad, my lady.'
  'How do I look? Will your master approve?' she asked him, turning on her heels. 'He will make no comment, my lady,' replied the servant, 'but I do not think he will be entirely indifferent to your appearance.'
So...if you don't know what's odd about the above, I'll leave you blissfully unaware. But I'll just say it caused me to be 'taken out of the story' which is the criticism I receive from critique partners whose job it is to make sure we don't commit such writerly sins.

Photo: Another book for my collection...FEMME , by Delia Strange. So pretty...Book launch @ #River City Writers Conference, Brisbane. @#writebytheriver #authorhappiness.
And of course I bought a book - Delia Strange's
FEMME. I'm quite liking the sci-fi romance genre.

  • Methinks it was somewhat easier to be an author in the olden days. What do you think? (And I don't mean -- of course it's not, it's a lot easier today to be an author as you can just self publish). I'm talking about the old style, the third person onmisicient POV etc. as compared to today's more stringent rules about everything.

Nas snapped us heading out to breakfast
Yes, the last bite of Winter was in the air.

Had a great weekend with Nas and Rajesh staying with us... and attending the River City Writers Conference. How was your weekend?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Looks like a great conference!
My publisher does marketing for my book, but I'm expected to do it as well. They don't have an army of editors though. Just two who go through my manuscript.
Thanks for placing my blogfest button in your sidebar.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Yep, we've become quite rule-oriented in today's writing. It's a shame. I don't mind a little head hopping when it's done well.

Karen Tyrrell said...

Hi Denise,
Fabulous to visit your Blog and read your take of this fabulous conference.
Just LOVED being part of this inaugural event and meeting so many passionate writers.
I'm particularly chuffed to present my memoir workshop. Thanks for your awesome support of my books especially your review of STOP the Bully. Much appreciated, Karen :)

Jo said...

Not being a writer, no I don't know what's wrong, but I do know Frenchman's Creek used to be a favourite of mine. Don't have it any more sadly.

Lynne Stringer said...

The reason I spoke up at the conference was because the gentleman offering his question was suggesting that publishers do nothing at all to help an author, so they are worthless.
I work for my publisher. I am also an author and professional editor, so I've seen all sides of the debate. I've sent my books to publishers and agents and been refused, and in my work for my publisher, I have been known to decide on submissions and have sent out letters of refusal myself.
Life is not easy for publishers today either, especially small ones. The big boys still have the lion's share of the market (what's left of it) and the little ones are still trying to stay afloat. My own publisher does her best and is lucky to break even but still insists on plugging on because she wants to help authors get their work out there. This is most certainly not the case with every publisher, but to hear them tarred with one brush so casually was not something I could endure.

Denise Covey said...

I'm glad you spoke up Lynne. It was good to hear from someone who understood from both an author and publisher's point of view. I know it's a hard business. I don't think the big guys or the small guys have fully worked out where it's at in this time of flux.

Often it's through a bit of a stoush that the truth comes out, so thank you.


Denise Covey said...

I think it's a great story,Jo, but these days you must have a new paragraph for a new speaker...never two together like du Maurier has done. I'm always intrigued by the classic/modern.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Karen. Glad you came by. I think everyone had a great time and therefore we may consider doing it again...who knows? Thanks for your memoir workshop. Well done!

Denise Covey said...

Yep. I think all traditional publishers expect authors to market their book, but they're not going to pay for your book tour unless you're in the top drawer. That's why a lot of writers go the self-pub path. They wonder what benefit there is in being traditionally published these days.

Denise Covey said...

As someone who loves to break rules, I find it tedious to hear all the 'must not dos' and 'must dos', but we don't have much choice if we want our mss to be accepted.

Nas said...

I was so grateful that you spoke up Lynne, so thank you for that! As Denise said above it was good to hear from both point of views. I seriously think it is in the publishers interest to do all they can as well as the authors. They both gain from it.

Thanks Denise for the post.

Raelene Purtill said...

Thanks for the post Denise. I've not come to earth yet and have been following up with bills and other tidying up that follows such an event, so I've not had time to reflect only to say that I'm grateful to al the attendees and the speakers and mentors who were all so generous with their time. All ran smoothly also grateful for that.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise - great to read about your Conference and to see a few photos .. and an interesting post - I had to look up head-hopping .. but not being an author/writer of books per se .. this is the kind of conference I'd like to attend - I'm sure I'd learn loads on a variety of subjects ... as I did from here ..

So pleased you were able to get together have fun and learn too and then that weekend with your hubbies ... cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Yes it was great Rae. A lot of work though!!

Denise Covey said...

Head hopping, hahah. First time i heard it, I was...what the? But i don't mind a bit of it. You would have enjoyed the conference--something for all.

Yes, a great time. Luckily the hubbies enjoy each other's company.

Jeanette O'Hagan said...

I agree 100% Lynne that your publisher works very hard to help authors in a difficult environment. It seems this is not always the case - which makes the whole traditional publishing versus self-publishing a hot one. There's pros and cons on both sides. Thanks for speaking up.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I am happy I came and read this post today

Denise Covey said...

I am happy you did too Jo-Anne.

Vallypee said...

I also had to look up head hopping, Denise. I didn't get it at first from the Frenchman's Creek excerpt (one of my favourite novels of all time by the way!), but I do now, and yes, I've read novels where it's really disturbing. You can only be inside one head at a time, I guess :)

Denise Covey said...

I'm so glad Frenchmans Creek is known by others.