Yesterday was Day 1 of WorldCon, and I’ve been roaming around as my writer friends’ freelance editor buddy. The day was fairly uneventful, but there were two major highlights for me: chatting with Moshe Feder from Tor and hearing from Jacob Weisman of Tachyon Publications. Some of what we talked about is particularly relevant to aspiring (and, honestly, established) authors.
While we were talking with Moshe (some friends of mine waylaid him, and he’s nice enough to chat with us), he mostly told stories about his career and let us know we are free to submit to him (I obviously won’t be taking advantage of that), but one tidbit you may be interested in is what he said about the touted ebook revolution, the future publishing structure, and the place of editors.
Editors in ePublishing
Moshe said that no matter how publishing convolutes, writhes, and reinvents itself, authors will always need an objective editorial eye to help them reach their full potential. While current publishing has a lot of rough patches (high overhead, etc.), it serves a purpose: it helps authors improve their work, grow their talent, and reach an audience. The need for those things will never go away. (So Moshe firmly believes that his line of work will not become obsolete, even if the printed word completely dies out.)
However, something that is changing, in Moshe’s mind, is how writers are reaching readers. As physical bookstores are fading from ubiquitousness, it will be harder to reach casual readers (you know, the readers that take a book outside the “die hard” readers and send it blossoming into widespread readership). In the past (and still now, to a certain degree), casual readers would pass book showcases (i.e. bookstores) in the mall or near their other regular errands. Then cover design and marketing could take over to let a casual reader know that he or she really did want to read a certain book. Now, Moshe says, no one in the industry is quite sure how to let casual readers know about awesome books. (This is also, he said with glee, marketing’s problem, not his. It’s a puzzle he doesn’t want to have on his plate.)
Career Writers’ Successes
While you’re thinking about the puzzle of publication promotion (couldn’t resist the alliteration), some words from Jacob Weisman may be hopeful to those of you looking to be career authors.
He said to remember you’re building a career, not just pieces of a career like a draft, interview, or promotion campaign. Judge your success on the right scale, and always remember the overarching career goal. Every step in your career should be a building block (but that doesn’t mean each one must be a success).
Here Weisman’s commentary ends and mine beings. When you’re building a career, one “failure” shouldn’t send you into a dizzying spiral of self-doubt and depression. A really rotten draft does not a rotten writer make: it’s one part of your career, one bit of the groundbreaking and foundation work you need to do. You won’t get anywhere without digging in the dirt for a while, but the dirt shouldn’t get you down. Keep at it, and when you get stuck, get yourself and objective eye.
Further WorldCon insights and commentary are forthcoming, so stay tuned! Today I ran into Brandon Sanderson (I almost didn’t recognize him with his goatee), talked with Liz Gorinsky of Tor, and went to presentations by Pyr and Angry Robot. Hopefully more about what I gathered from all them tomorrow.