Generally I review books that have been recently
published because the review journals and sites
I write for expect that. Sometimes that policy
makes me grumpy because I love reviewing old books
with stick-to-it-iveness to see what authors can
learn from them that will make their own books
hang around for longer than the traditional 90
day bookstore shelf life.
But I was exposed to 78 Reasons Why Your
Book May Never Be Published: 14 Why It Just Might
at a recent critique group meeting and the saucy
title intrigued me. I asked to borrow it. I’m
glad I did because the contents remind me of why
“recent” is a good policy to have, at least for
most nonfiction books.
It was also a good thing because it helped me
realize how far the publishing industry has come
since 2005 when this book was published by Penguin.
It’s not that I’m not aware that people (including
agents and publishers) still judge a book by its
cover and by the press it is printed on. They
do and I don’t like it much because I am sensitive
to intolerance. That includes labeling people
by their color or religion, or weight or . . .
well, you get the idea. Most of my creative writing
addresses this particular theme in one way or
another. So I’ve also been an advocate for selecting
books by their content. You know, the stuff of
which books are really made.
There are some gems out there that never get
published. It’s hogwash when people say, “Write
an excellent book and it will find its way to
publishing sooner or later.” Sometimes that is
true but many times it is not. And that is one
reason subsidy and self publishing has become
so popular. (There are others but that may be
material for another day and another rant.)
Back to this 2005 book on publishing. It’s not
that there isn’t some good stuff in it. It’s not
that author Pat Walsh might not have moderated
his opinions over the years. But his disdain for
authors shines through in too many place to have
much hope for that. He doesn’t much like the ones
who want a hand in publicizing their own books,
for instance. Nope. He admits he doesn’t do a
whole lot of promotion for his own authors but
he also doesn’t want their input or the elbow
grease they might provide in do-it-yourself projects
or in partnership with his company. Authors (at
least in 2005) were to be good little writers,
know their places, and damn well shut up.
Walsh’s narrow take is that there is only one
way to do things is not really all bad. It is
important for writers to know about some of the
biases in the industry that existed back then
(a long time ago in the electronic age) and now.
In The Frugal Editor, I advocated using
zero-tolerance editing because I know it still
exists and as authors we need to deal with it
if we want our books published traditionally or
Here’s the thing: Though Walsh’s humor comes
through in much of the book, I fear any emerging
author who gets hold of it might take it at face
value. We already have too much discrimination
floating around in this world. It’s time we got
a grip and started judging people and books on
their individual merit. Oh, yes. And give authors
as a group some credit for having more than peas
in their brains. At least until they prove otherwise.
Mr. Walsh, if you’ve changed some of your opinions,
please update your book. I’d like to recommend
it as an example of what an open-minded and caring
publisher might do for an author’s work. I’d like
to encourage many authors—particularly those
who write creatively—to try the traditional
route first. Until then, I fear your book might
discourage writers with talent from wanting anything
to do with our industry.
(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists
a Tidbit that will help authors write or
promote better. She will also include a
Tip to help readers find a treasure among
long-neglected books or a sapphire among
Writers who have been around awhile love
to avoid a passive voice. They’ve been told
it is hateful and will ruin their writing.
Yes, that’s true. Sometimes. But there are
times when it can be embraced. I use it
liberally in my multi award-winning novel,
This Is the Place, because it is
set in decades from the late 1800s to the
1950s and therefore needs a slower pace.
It is set in a culture that is not mainstream
as well. You’ll also find an article on
“Learning To Love the Passive” on my Web
site. This page is where you can go to get
all kinds of free articles on different
aspects of writing for your newsletter,
your blog, your Web site. All for free.
Tip: If you missed
The Secret, as book, CD or
DVD, please reconsider. I avoided it for
a long time. Now I’m sorry I did. All that
time wasted when I could have been honing
my law-of-attraction skills.
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