Tuesday, December 02, 2014

When everyone is super, no one will be.

I listen to Joanna Penn's podcast regularly. She's a certifiable success and role model when it comes to indie publishing and attracts high-level talent for her interviews. I've broadened my network and likely improved my craft just in the short time since I discovered her.

In one of her recent episodes, she interviewed the designer of her fiction book covers, Derek Murphy. By all accounts, Derek seems like a very nice guy and is indisputably talented. He's designed hundreds (thousands?) of covers in the past few years and has no doubt enhanced the appeal of books that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

And now to my point: should all books be noticed? It was bad enough when the "indie movement" first took off and suddenly, everyone was an author! Then there was NaNoWriMo, which practically mandated that everyone write a novel! As someone who's been a writer for his entire career, and writing novels for more than ten years, I take umbrage with the notion that possessing a computer and an internet connection endows upon you the skills of structure, plotting, character development, dialogue.

Derek is about to start providing Microsoft Word templates so indie authors can design their own covers--halfway decent covers at that.  It's hard enough for the good books to rise above the mediocre books, and now we won't have their covers to help us distinguish between them.

The process used to be self-qualifying: if you wrote a lousy book, chances are you'd put a lousy cover on it, and we really could judge a book by its cover. I'm generalizing, of course, but I would think that really good writers, those with discriminating taste who bother to proofread and format their content correctly, wouldn't settle for a cover they designed themselves.

I'm fortunate enough to have a best friend who's not only a brilliant designer, but who listens and collaborates, too. If I didn't have him, I'd surely pay someone to design my covers, because I know how important they are, and I want the cover to be indicative of the quality inside.

I'd be willing to bet that many of the books that end up using Derek's templates will be camouflaging mediocre content with pretty pictures.

Must we lower all the barriers to entry?

Author's note: To give this post some context, the author is a 20-year advertising veteran who has seen his profession devalued beyond recognition with the advent of digital technology that makes everyone not only a writer, but also a website designer, a photographer and a videographer. Some chafing is to be expected.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I've (almost) reached the halfway mark!

Now of course, this refers to a first draft, and we're talking ten chapters of a first draft that may ultimately have more than 20 chapters, but that's all I've outlined so far. So this is a very qualified celebration. But it feels like progress nonetheless. As avid readers of this blog know (Lock him up! He's referring to imaginary people!), I was well into (probably halfway, ironically) a middle-grade adventure novel (working title: Opposite Day) when I decided to shelve the whole thing. One day, I might pull it back out, and one day it might actually be shelved in a physical library, but I just wasn't feeling it. I'm not sure if it was the voice, the "reining in" of my normal adult-speak (vocabulary/idioms/cultural references) or the crazy-elaborate dual world I had built that spun out of my control, but I no longer looked forward to opening that file anymore.

Now I'm onto another "humorous suspense," much like my first two novels. Also, like my other two novels, this one takes place partly in Europe–in this case, Ireland. I like to escape when I read, and when I write, and since I don't write sci-fi or fantasy, which necessitate travel into other times or even universes, I satisfy this urge with vicarious tourism. In my plots, the characters always travel for a legitimate reason that's integral to the action–not like in my old ad agency, when we'd try to sell a commercial that took place in an exotic location (think Rice Krispies in Belize) purely to shoot in an exotic location. Without the trip to Greece, Ring of Fire would have made no sense. Without the detour to Germany, Battle Axe would have fallen apart. And now, with [working title here], my main character is compelled to hit the Emerald Isle for reasons critical to his health and his marriage.

I hope to begin posting regularly again soon, and it won't always be about the status of the WIP (work in progress), but I have given myself a loose-but-looming deadline, so one way or another, I'll be writing.