Monday, 4 February 2013

Self-publishing: Learning the trade

Where did January go? Mainly I spent it coughing - it's that time of year. But now it's February, and onto my doormat plopped the latest edition of Writing magazine - always a source of information and entertainment.

Today's gem was from a reader complaining about comments in a previous edition. 'Not all of us have access to resources to fix such things as grammar and punctuation if our educations weren't as  exceptional as [Name's].'  The writer goes on to add up the costs of critique and copy-editing, postage and ink, and says  'Punctuation and grammar have never been my strongest point. ... My story has just as much right to be read as best sellers. So what can a self-published author do?'

I have great sympathy with those who feel that they have trouble with reading and writing, and especially with dyslexics, some of whom are brilliant story-tellers. They have very specific problems, which can scarcely be overcome by any means other than by paying a copy editor. Yes, it puts them at a disadvantage, but most of them are philosophical about it. But what of other writers who have no diagnosed disability? Is it enough to blame a poor education?

I would have loved to be able to play tennis. It wasn't that I was never fit enough: my Saturday job as a teenager was teaching in a dancing school. But no one ever bothered to teach me hand-eye co-ordination, so I spent five years at secondary school swiping wildly with a tennis racket and being tacfully ignored, along with my fellow sports failures, by the PE teacher.

I didn't attempt to take up tennis professionally.  To do so I would have had to embark on a serious course of remedial lessons in technique, and resigned myself to many years of practice, with no assurance of success at the end.

Yes, it may be that some writers know that their education failed to prepare them for their chosen career. But in these days of opportunities for mature students, literacy classes and the availability of the internet, it's not beyond anyone to find their own remedy.  Lynn Price writes on the Behler Blog:
You can have a great story idea, but if you write like you barely made it out of 8th grade, then no reputable editor will take pity on you and offer you a contract. They’ll kick you to the curb. Quickly.
Being an expert in your craft should take precedence over your desire to be published. Sadly, I see the opposite in large quantities.
Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t learned how to write, then you haven’t planned for success.
 Harsh words. But they come from a professional, and she's worth listening to.
Sorry to sound so crabbit. It's the cough.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

It's not the joke that's funny, it's how you tell it.

That seems a similar kind of thing :)