Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Waiting Room This Way... by Cathy Ace

 Tell us the things you hate/find frustrating about the publishing industry; and finish by telling us one thing you love about it.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I’ve had an “interesting” relationship with publishers over the years. This – I have discovered – is far from unusual for authors. But you’ll also know that I use this space to speak frankly, so I shall continue in that vein today, as I answer our interesting question of the week…except that I’m going to turn the question on its head and begin by telling you the one thing I love about the publishing industry…

…and that would be the PEOPLE who work in it. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to dislike folks who spend their entire lives and careers dedicated to publishing books. Books have been a constant in my life, as they might have been in yours, offering me a way to learn, discover, escape, and develop as a person over the decades. They’ve taken me to places I could never visit – be that a place or a time that’s out of reach – and they have introduced me to characters who will be with me forever. So, yes, if you’re going to spend every waking hour thinking about, and publishing, books, you’re my type of person.

Now that you know I do, in fact, have a heart, I’ll just say this: being a delightful person whose entire career is spent publishing books, doesn’t mean you’re able to change the way an industry (because that’s what it is) works within the span of that career. The business of publishing books isn’t about art, it’s about the bottom line, and the deathless prose we writers craft is the meat in the sausage-making machine.

Is this a cynical view? Maybe, but it’s how I’ve been made to feel by publishers in my time, and I know it’s how other authors feel too – though I’ll certainly not share their names with you.

Overall, the one aspect that irked me most about working with traditional publishers was the amount of time they had their hands on my work. The months, sometimes years, it takes from sending in a manuscript to it appearing, as a book, on bookshelves necessarily has periods built in to allow for reviews to be written (it’s normal to have to submit a book, or an Advanced Review Copy, to mainstream/specialist media three to four months ahead of the publication date) which I understand (yes, reviewers need time to read books and write reviews). I also understand the fact that editors need time to read and edit books.

BUT (and, yes, it’s a BIG but) there always appeared to be “fallow” months, where I knew my work was literally sitting in someone’s computer not being attended to, but simply working its way to the top of a To-Do list. Then, when whatever had to be done what had been completed, my book would be sent back to me (often with no warning) for maybe three days – within which time I was expected to “approve” what had been done while the book had been “with my publisher” for the past – absolutely silent – six months.

But here’s my true confession: the reason all of this irritated me…I am, at heart, a control freak, and I need closure. So, for me, I found it difficult to press on creatively until a book was completely finished – and out there. So, with books trapped in the pipeline, I often found myself worrying about that book, rather than being able to focus completely upon the next book I had been contracted to write. This, I know from my author friends, is not a problem experienced by everyone, so I have to own it.

Now that I publish my own books, I’ve been able to streamline the entire process; of course I only have one book to deal with at a time, but, even so, I find I’m able to save months, or even years, by scheduling activities (editing, copy proofing, etc.) to allow a book to be written, edited, pre-sold, reviewed, and launched, within a few months, rather than a couple of years. And I can get a book into the hands of my readers in a timely manner, and be able to focus on the next one. Which is what I’m off to do now…because I still feel the passion to WRITE.

All that being said, I do miss my interactions with the PEOPLE who dedicate their lives to publishing books – they’re a great bunch - though, of course, I still get to work with the editors who help improve my efforts.

If you’d like to find out more about my work, CLICK HERE


Gabriel Valjan said...

Control freak? Patience is certainly not one of my virtues. This weeks' discussion has been showcasing the Minds' experiences and perceptions of publishing. We can agree it's a business. You've been successful as a hybrid author, but I think your experience in your 'prior life' has helped you immensely. Out there in the wild, self-publication is a cautionary tale, from questionable cover art to editing, so organization and objectivity are paramount. You seem to be holding Aces in your hand.

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks, Gabriel...yes, my "past lives" have certainly helped! Business IS business.