I’ll spare you the NaNo talk today. I know you’re getting it everywhere and for those of you not doing NaNo, you’re sick of it already.
I’m thinking about interventions this morning. Some of this is because of my background in psychology. Some of it is because, in America at least, interventions have become a thing of pop culture (owing, I’m sure, to the reality TV show).
There are so many places in the writing and self publishing process where there’s room for interventions. And I see indie books out every day where I think, “Really? Why didn’t somebody tell this poor author that x, y, z just doesn’t work?”
Well probably because nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings. We’re deathly afraid of being interpreted as mean or non-supportive, so we bite our tongue and hope for the best.
Dude, I promise you, you are doing your fellow writer a disservice if you do this.
Sometimes it’s about proofing or editing or straight up true critique. We worry that our author friend can’t take our real, true, honest opinion and so we sugar coat and play down things that should be addressed. We make stuff sound like a suggestion instead of the “this is a serious problem and you need to fix it” that it ought to be. The WIP moves into the next stage and it goes out in to the world and that thing that you saw and didn’t speak up about in the beta stage? Yeah, it’s now being seen by at least 30 more people. And that’s assuming that it gets any readers in the first place. It is your JOB as a crit partner or beta reader to TELL YOUR author friend how you think the work can be improved. If the author friend can’t take it, well then he or she probably shouldn’t be a writer. Whether you’re traditional or indie, you have to have a thick skin and realize that it’s all about putting out the best book possible.
Sometimes it’s a difference in focus and expectations. Some people think good enough is good enough. Nope, sorry. That’s never okay. If indie publishing is to rise to the level of respectability of indie films and music, then all of us have to be hard asses about pushing each other to put out THE BEST book possible.
Sometimes it’s about behavior, when a fellow author is behaving badly. This is a BIG ONE for intervention. Yes, bad reviews suck. Yes, it hurts when someone maligns us or our babies (books). It is never okay to respond in the heat of anger, and some would say it’s never okay to respond openly at all. If you see a fellow author friend doing this, throw up a big stop sign and say “Hey! You are doing more damage to your reputation yourself than this person who said this stupid thing on the internet.”
Sometimes it’s about cover art. For me, this is the hardest to deal with. I see so many CRAPPY COVERS that are designed by people who don’t know what they’re doing. They’re either doing it themselves, have a friend or family member doing it, or have a subpar graphic designer who really has no grasp of what elements should go in a proper book cover. I personally think that everyone should use Robin Ludwig because she is awesome, and she gets it. But it’s HARD to go to a friend and find a politic way of saying “Dude, your cover art blows.” It’s ESPECIALLY hard when there’s a friend or family member involved. I have one author I know who has been bemoaning low sales numbers, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve bitten my tongue about the cover art. As art, the images are fine. But they don’t suit as covers and don’t match the tone of the genre AT ALL, and I think that’s being reflected in sales. I’m working myself up to an intervention as soon as I figure out the least hurtful way to say it. And don’t get me started on these covers that have CG characters that look like they were screenshotted out of a video game. No. Just NO. There is nothing remotely professional about that. You will never see a cover come out of New York that has that type of graphic. A good cover has appropriate balance, should fit in a montage with others of its genre, should have the appropriate tone and not pull something obscure from the text that says nothing to someone who hasn’t read the book, and should be put together by someone who knows how to merge layers in Photoshop so that nobody looks like they’re floating–this is a pet peeve of mine.
There are so many points along the path that a well intentioned, confident intervention can save a project and help it be the best it can be. The rest of us just need to get over worrying about hurting feelings and tell the truth. In the long run, our fellow authors will thank us.